Where the Atlanta Hawks Stand

The Atlanta Hawks were written off as another playoff also-ran before this season because they didn't replace Josh Childress and because Mike Bibby was old and not really that good anymore. So, of course, Marvin Williams learned to shoot threes, Bibby bounced back, and Flip Murray stepped up, helping the offense not only stay afloat, but improve. However, their defense has also improved. Their ORtg has gone from 106 to 108 at the same time that their DRtg has gone from 108 to 107.

The thing Atlanta has had going for it for years has been an excellent young core of swing men. Williams hasn't been starting the whole time, but he, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith have been playing together since the 05-06 season. Adding a quality point guard and quality center via trade and draft made everything fall into place around Smith and Johnson, their two All Star quality players.

Seen through the lens of good process versus bad process, the Hawks are doing a lot of things right. Specifically, they've gathered young talent, rewarded the successful players they developed, and added veterans to supplement their young core without hamstringing their ability to improve even more in the future. Bibby's deal will end and they'll likely let him go. Murray is lightning in a bottle, and they'll be well served to acknowledge he probably isn't showing a new high level of performance. But those guys are replaceable, and, given a little luck, Atlanta will return to the playoffs year after year with new guys surrounding their core three of Smith, Johnson, and maybe Williams.

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Tonight is a must-win game for the Bobcats if they're aiming to make the playoffs. Other teams in the hunt are stumbling, so they might not need to reach 40 wins to get in, but the Hawks are a better team, so winning would give Charlotte a little more margin for error in the race for the postseason.

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