Peachtreehoops: At the beginning of the offseason, most thought the Hawks were set on joining the tank parade, content with tossing this season out the window in preparation for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. However, mastermind GM Danny Ferry had other plans, and those plans have caused somewhat of a schism amongst the Hawks fan base. So is he a mastermind or not? I don't know, but I like what he did. He kept the team competitive by signing Millsap to replace and possibly improve Atlanta's offense with the loss of Josh Smith. He hired a coach who learned from one of the best of all time. He signed some defensive guys to aid what appears to be the weakest link to this team (DeMarre Carroll, Elton Brand). Having said all that, the brilliance I see in his work is that this team is flexible enough to do whatever it wants. It can feel out the season and, if things aren't looking as bright as expected, all the Hawks' best players are on incredibly manageable and tradable deals and Atlanta can hop right back on the tank-wagon with a few roster moves. If the Hawks are pleased with the development of the team, they can stand pat, be competitive, and enter next summer with max cap-room flexibility.
2. RHQ: Do you see this team as a playoff team and if so, can they get out of the first round?
PtH: I see Atlanta as a fringe-playoff team. I think there are probably 6 teams with realistic aspirations to claim the 6-8 seeds in the Eastern Conference (Atlanta, Washington, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Toronto). The Hawks seem to be the surest bet of that group, given that their roster has the least question marks. Detroit isn't deep and we're not sure about the front court spacing and free throw shooting. Cleveland has to have everyone healthy. No one knows if Washington can make the leap. I'm not sure where Milwaukee is getting their offense from. Atlanta doesn't have those glaring questions (although there are some defensive ones). We know they'll have a potent offense. It's just a matter of whether or not they can defend. I think they'll slip into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed (assuming the roster stays as currently constructed and Ferry doesn't shred it down to the bones), but then get promptly swept in the first round.
3. RHQ: What are the keys to beating the Raptors tonight?
PtH: The key to beating the Raptors is to stop penetration and force them to make outside shots. That should be Atlanta's goal. However, Teague and Korver both struggle with on-ball defense and Toronto's backcourt is filled with capable and athletic slashers. There's a good chance you see more DeMarre Caroll and John Jenkins (if healthy-- one of the more underrated on-ball defenders) shoulder more minutes in an effort to contain an onslaught in the restricted area. The Hawks don't have a true rim protector, so they'll need to pack the paint and hope that Millsap can be more reliable on pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop coverage. If the Hawks can keep the Raptors offense under 95 points, I like Atlanta in this one.