Atlanta Hawks 2008-09 Fantasy Preview

All previews follow the same format, I’ll be going in depth only on the players worth owning in a standard 12-team league, followed by players who you might consider as injury handcuffs/deep sleepers. As always, it starts with the most valuable player on the team:
Sorry Josh Smith lovers, Joe Johnson is the most valuable fantasy players on the Hawks.

Sorry Josh Smith lovers, Joe Johnson is the most valuable fantasy players on the Hawks.

 Joe Johnson (SG)

Helps: Points, 3-pointers, FT%, Assists, Steals

Hurts: Possibly FG%

There may be cause for debate on who is the Hawks best fantasy player, but I have Johnson ahead of Josh Smith. After struggling to start last season, Johnson averaged 24.2 points and 2.48 3s down the stretch.

Frankly, Johnson just helps in more categories, giving you better than 20 points, somewhere between four and six assists, around one steal and two 3-pointers per game. Plus he is an outstanding foul shooter (83% last season) . His field-goal percentage was down quite a bit from the previous season, but he shot 48 percent from the floor in the final 23 games.

Starting this season with Mike Bibby at the point and a roster that gained has playoff experience, Johnson may be more selective with his shots, causing a return to a FG% around .460 while sacrificing little in the way of scoring. If that happens, Johnson doesn’t hurt your team anywhere, making him the team’s highest quality pick.

Where to take him: Somewhere in the middle-to-late second round.

Josh Smith (PF):

Helps: Blocks, Steals, Points, Rebounds

Hurts: FT%, FG%, TO

Smith’s value derives from his ability to give a tremendous amount of blocks (2.8 last season) and steals (1.5)  along with rebounds (8.2) at both forward positions, depending on your league.

Smith’s scoring average has risen in each of his first four seasons and it would not be surprising if he scores more than 18 per game in 2008-09. But his shot selection is awful as he often forces up tough shots he thinks he can pull off because of his freakish athleticism. Sometimes he can, other times he can’t, resulting in a subpar .453 field goal percentage last season.

True, his FG% has jumped significantly in each of his last three seasons, but I don’t expect it to get much higher. Plus he is only a 70% free-throw shooter and gets to the line more each year, making the shortcoming much more pronounced.

Smith is still a great pick, but his potential to hurt you in both percentages as well as turnovers, drops him a notch below Johnson.

Where to take him: Late second or early third round.

Al Horford (C):

Helps: Rebounds, Blocks, FG%, Possibly Steals

Hurts: FG%

Also likely eligible at power forward in most leagues, Horford adds a significant big body to the high-flying Hawks (get it, Hawks fly).

Horford was tremendous as a rookie last season, averaging 11.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and a shade under one steal per 36 minutes. He figures to play more minutes this season and has emerged into Atlanta’s number one presence for rebounds and blocks, with no one to challenge him.

With Josh Childress breaking plates somewhere in Greece, Horford’s role will increase and he’s an excellent No. 2 center who could emerge into a stud this season.

Where to take him: In the fifth round. If he goes any later than that, he is a gift.

Mike Bibby (PG):

Helps: 3-Pointers, Assists, Steals, FT%

Hurts: FG%

Bibby’s high-scoring days are behind him. On a young team filled with athletic talent, he will be more of pass-first point guard. Last season, Bibby averaged 6.5 assists in 33 games with the Hawks – his best mark since 2004-05.

Don’t get me wrong, though, Bibby still loves to shoot. As a result, he won’t help you much with FG% (.371 career) but he will do lots of damage from 3-point range (2.1 per game with the Hawks) and is an excellent free-throw shooter (.806 career), although he does not get to the line much anymore.

You should already have a point guard before getting to Bibby, but he’s a solid pick as a backup PG or to fill in Guard/Utility slot.

Where to take him: Somewhere in the mid-to-late sixth round, after the definitive top 10 point guards have been taken. If you get him in the seventh round or below, he could be a steal.

 Marvin Williams (SF):

Helps: FT%, Steals

Williams has been inconsistent in his first three season, but his numbers have continually improved. He averaged 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes last season.

Offseason rumours indicate many think this is the season Williams is going to explode. But he is a post player that doesn’t rebound well and doesn’t block shots. So, he doesn’t play big, and for player who is eligible at small forward, doesn’t shoot 3’s or add any assists. As a fantasy player, he’s totally in between, which hurts his value.

Williams shot a career-high 46% from the floor last season and his best attribute his ability to get to the line and make free throws. He shot 82% percent from charity stripe in 2007-08 and, more importantly, averaged more than five attempts per game.

Where to take him: Eighth or ninth round. You could do much worse than having him as your last starter/first utility player based on his upside and the fact that he doesn’t hurt your team anywhere. 

THE REST:

It’s hard to predict who might emerge to fill the void left by Childress’ defection to Europe, but I’d be more apt to believe it will be Horford or Williams taking on more minutes than some unknown emerging as a quality player.

Zaza Pachulia (C) averaged double figures in scoring and around seven rebounds per game in back-to-back season from 2005-2007 and could be a guy to grab if either Horford or Williams gets hurt. Disappointing as a rookie, Acie Law (PG) or veteran Flip Murray will be the backup point guard but neither will have much value. Even if Bibby gets hurt, Johnson will likely be the primary ballhandler.

Be sure to check your league rules for specific position eligibility rules.

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Filed under Draft Strategy, Season Preview, Team Preview

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