This is the first installment of the “Match Up” series where I will be looking at how the Raptors
match up with every team in the league. The series will run like two-a-days and each post will have a segment from a blogger of the team I am breaking down. Today’s preview of the Hawks has been done by Jason from The Human Highlight Blog.
The Human Highlight Blog is seen in the 50 states and around the world and can be found on Twitter @THHB and The Human Highlight Blog
The Hawks made a lot of headlines in the off season by fully accomplishing their own “To Do” list.
They acquired Jamal Crawford from GS for two reasons; Insurance in case Mike Bibby didn’t resign and to ensure they would get at least some productivity from the first bench guard position that Ronald “Flip” Murray provided on last season’s (47) win team. They drafted Jeff Teague with the #19 pick, a player they highly regarded for his ability to handle the ball and create for himself. They then went about resigning Bibby and backup center Zaza Pachulia, both for either at or below market value. Marvin Williams was the last of the Hawks own free agents to sign and, despite his restricted free agent status, both sides agreed to a fair market deal.
Last season the Hawks grabbed home court advantage by beating the lesser teams in the conference, but stalled significantly when it came to the better teams in the East (read: better defenses, too), mustering only a 2-10 record against the Celtics, Magic, and Cavaliers. Part of the problem was a dependence on isolation and 1 on 1 offensive basketball, often leaving them too late in the shot clock to get good shots. It worked out against teams that struggled defensively, but was a prominent issue against the good teams who don’t have a problem holding down half court D for 24 seconds. Another regular issue for the Hawks is defensive rebounding, where the Hawks again finished in the second half in the league in the category.
Bringing in Crawford and Teague highlighted that the team is alright with the strategy offensively, as both players fit that dribble and shoot motif. But, the additions of Joe Smith and Jason Collins, do little to address the rebounding needs. Essentially, the Hawks have decided to double down on last year’s strategy and success, leaving THHB to believe it will be more of the same in 2009-2010: A talented team that will achieve similar win column success, but will do little to raise itself to the next level.
Last Season Record: 1-3 (Hawks won both their home games)
Last season was a disaster for the Raptors
and the Hawks were one of many teams who took advantage of the defensively defunct team. Against the Hawks, most of the Raptor problems came from the guard positions. Time and time again, Bibby and Joe Johnson lit them up from long range while the athletic prowess of Josh Smith often left his defenders in the dust. Chris Bosh
has always managed to fill up the stat sheet against Atlanta, but with so many weapons he needed some help to take them down.
The Bigs: The Raptors
franchise player may not have much of a “back to the basket” game but the team’s success goes hand in hand with the performance of Chris Bosh. He is one of the best PF’s in the game today and using Bargnani
at Center, helps stretch out the defense. Bosh
gets more room to work inside while creating open looks for Bargnani
as he pulls in the D. On the flip side, Al Horford and Za Za Pachulia play a more secondary role on offense for the Hawks. Both players are relied on more for their presence on the defensive end, taking care of the glass and blocking shots. This means the Raptor bigs don’t have to extend as much energy on D against the front court of the Hawks as they may have to with some of the other teams in the league. Similar to last season, the Raptors
big men should carry most of the load against this team.
The Wings Josh Smith usually runs circles around this team with his high flying act. In the past the Raptors
had no answer to keep him at bay, but the additions of Antoine Wright, Amir Johnson and Demar DeRozan should help bolster a position that has long been the weakness of the team on defense. Marvin Williams needs to develop more in order to form a 1-2 punch with Smith and until that happens teams have the luxury to focus in one place. Offensively, adding Hedo Turkoglu should keep Josh Smith working more on the defensive end and when the Raptors
manage to put out a lineup of Bosh, Bargnani
and Hedo, the Hawks will struggle to have an answer as they remain a guard heavy team.
The Guards The Raptors
may have Calderon
and Jarret Jack, but Atlanta’s strength lies at this position. Adding Jamal Crawford to an already solid combination of Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby gives the team another offensive weapon to drop 30+ on any given night. While neither teams guards would be featured on an all-defensive team roster, the size of the Hawks players is not to be ignored. Bibby may be aging, but he is still a threat from long range and Johnson remains one of the most underrated all-stars int he game. Add in a streaky but dangerous shooter in Jamal Crawford and no matter what combination Toronto puts on the floor, it will be a tough task to contain this back court.
Predicted Record: 3-1 (Expecting the Raptors
to grab one on the road)