ATLANTA — No one can say this is the same ol' Atlanta Hawks.
Tired of one year blending into the next, with little progress in either direction, the Hawks decided to take a dramatically different path heading into this season. Joe Johnson was traded. So was Marvin Williams.
Atlanta was left with a guard-dominated team that could be highly entertaining — certainly, scoring shouldn't be a problem — but may be hard-pressed to win as many games. New general manager Danny Ferry has put together a roster filled with expiring contracts, making it clear that he's got his eye more on the future than the present.
Still, coach Larry Drew believes the team has enough talent to make a run at its sixth straight playoff appearance. He refuses to call this a rebuilding year, even though he's one of those in the last year of his contract. The Hawks picked up his option year, but very pointedly didn't give him an extension.
"I'm looking at this as a very unique opportunity, not only for me but for this team," Drew said. "I'm not coming into this thing looking at it like we're starting over. We're going to build off what we've done in the past."
Indeed, the Hawks have plenty of talented players. Josh Smith is coming off perhaps the best season of his career. Al Horford is a former All-Star who missed most of last season with a pectoral injury, but made a dramatic return in the playoffs. Jeff Teague is coming into his own as a point guard. Lou Williams, one of the league's top sixth men, was signed as a free agent.
But the roster Ferry assembled through trades and signings tilts heavily toward the backcourt. In addition to Teague and Williams, the Hawks also have guards Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson, Devin Harris and John Jenkins, the team's top draft pick. The result is almost certainly a three-guard starting lineup, augmented by a center (Horford) who is probably better suited to play power forward, and a power forward (Smith) who might be more effective as a small forward.