The Hawks are playing amazingly. It is only thanks to playing in the same division as the best team in the league that they are not leading their division. The Hawks made a mistake a few seasons ago by giving Joe Johnson a ridiculous extension and essentially destroying their flexbility. This season another blow was dealt when Al Horford went down with an injury that will essentially take him out the whole season. Somehow the Hawks are still contending and the question is: how? Has Josh Smith decided to carry the load on the front court? Has Joe Johnson decided to live up to his contract? No! It turns out the Hawks are being bailed out by some surprising play from some other players on the team.
The 2011-2012 Hawks
Al Horford is a very good player and it’s easy to see when he was playing he was very productive. This is not surprising, in fact his WP48 is pretty close to his numbers from last year. And the same is true of Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. The players that are truly surprising are Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams, Tracy McGrady, and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Draft picks living up to the hype
Jeff Teague (19th pick in the 2009 draft) was terrible his first season in Atlanta, last season he was a decent player. This season he is playing very well. He’s a young player and this is what franchises hope (or expect) young players will do.
Marvin Williams has been a decent player his whole career. For most players that would be fine. Of course Williams was picked right in front of one of the greatest rookies of all time in Chris Paul. Couple that with also being picked in front of three All-Stars (Deron Williams, Danny Granger and David Lee) and fine seems less satisfactory to the Hawks. This season — after six seasons in the league — Williams has finally decided to live up to his potential. Or at least, that’s the hope.
Old players defying age
Once Tracy McGrady was a top player in the league. Right before he left Orlando he saw his production fizzle as he began racking up injury problems. By the time he left Houston he was a shell of the player he was. Last year he showed some life in Detroit. As Detroit was so bad, I’m not sure anyone was watching. When the Hawks wisely let Crawford walk they managed to pick up McGrady for a song, and it’s paid off very well for them.
The last piece of the puzzle is Radmanovic. Most of his career Vladimir has been marginal at best. Last season he showed some spark in Golden State. The Hawks managed to add him on as a cheap replacement. This season he’s managed to play the best ball of his career.
The Hawks are doing very well this season and I suspect it’s a surprise to everyone including themselves. Of the three areas of major improvement (Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams and the cheap contracts of McGrady and Radmanovic) only one would be truly expected. Teague is supposed to develop and get better. It’s doubtful the Hawks thought Williams would finally play at a level near Chris Paul. McGrady and Radmanovic playing the best they have in years for peanuts is a pleasant surprise. Hopefully the Hawks are learning their lesson and will avoid pitfalls like Joe Johnson in the future. Of course the season in young and we’ll have to see if at the end McGrady and Williams get credit for their surprising play or if the Hawks decide to go another direction.