Mar 3, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (6) fouls Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Atlanta Hawks


Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is the first installment and it will continue with one team per day for the rest of the month.

Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Atlanta Hawks Team Overview

The Hawks have been a team over the past few years that would always make the playoffs, but never had any expectations to do anything once they got there. They were never going to win a championship with the roster they had and this summer, new GM Danny Ferry blew things up.

Ferry was able to get rid of Joe Johnson and the $89 million left on his contract. The Hawks are also parting ways with Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Willie Green, Jason Collins, Vladimir Radmonovic and Jerry Stackhouse. The new additions to the team are Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, John Jenkins and Mike Scott. It’s safe to say that the Hawks will have a very different look next season.

Despite getting rid of a lot of valuable players and the franchise now clearly in some sort of rebuilding mode, the Hawks will not be one of the worst teams in the NBA. They still have two All-Star caliber players in Al Horford and Josh Smith on the roster who if stay healthy, can lead this team to the playoffs as a lower seed in the East.

The idea long-term for Atlanta was to be in position to pursue a big name free agent next summer, mainly Dwight Howard or Chris Paul. Both are long shots to end up in Atlanta but setting yourself up in position to make a run at players like that, does give a franchise hope.

Last year

The Thunder and the Hawks played just once last season with Atlanta winning at home 97-90. The Hawks ended a 7-game winning streak for the Thunder that night. Josh Smith led the Hawks with 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists and did this to Serge Ibaka. Joe Johnson and Al Horford did not play for the Hawks in the game but the shorthanded Hawks still won thanks to a sloppy game from OKC.

The Thunder shot just 41.1 percent in the game, shot 6-for-23 from three and turned the ball over 21 times. It was the kind of recipe that often was found in Thunder losses last season. The Thunder were a two-man show with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook doing all of the work on offense.

Durant scored 35 but was 9-for-23 from the field and 3-for-10 from three. He turned the ball over four times but did get to the line a lot, making 14-of-17. Westbrook had 25 on 10-of-21 shooting to go with four assists.

James Harden was pretty nonexistent scoring 10 points to go with six rebounds. The Thunder were minus-14 in the 27 minutes that Harden played.

The Hawks took the Thunder by surprise in the game. The Thunder were not always at their best on the road last year, Harden in particular. The game was one that never felt like the Thunder were going to be able to pull out the win.

The matchup

The Thunder were one of the most efficient teams in the NBA last season so not a lot of teams match up well with them. The Hawks were really no exception.

The Hawks were third in the NBA in spot-up shooting in terms of points per possession while the Thunder were just 10th in the league vs. spot-up shooting.

Atlanta was eight in the league in scoring from the post, one of their greatest strengths and something they will continue to emphasize with Horford being the focus of the offense next year. The Thunder were one of the best in the league themselves defending the post last year, finishing fourth in the NBA thanks to the presences of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Despite being a pretty efficient defense, the Thunder offense is just too much for Atlanta to handle. The Thunder have an advantage in just about every way with their offense vs. Atlanta’s defense, most notably on isolation and pick-and-roll plays, the Thunder’s bread and butter.

Next season Atlanta will look a little differently especially without Joe Johnson as part of their offense anymore. Expect less isolation play with the Hawks on offense and better ball movement in general.

Next year

With the full 82-game season next year, the Thunder will play the Hawks twice as opposed to just once last year. They will get to see them very early in the season as the Thunder will host Atlanta on Nov. 4 in their third game of the year. The Thunder will then travel to play the Hawks in Atlanta Dec. 19.

The Thunder are poised for a huge regular season next year while the Hawks seem like a team that may take a slight step backwards. No games are ever guaranteed as wins but you would expect the Thunder to have a pretty big advantage over Atlanta in their games next year, especially remembering how they lost to the Hawks this past season.

For more Atlanta Hawks coverage, visit Soaring Down South.

Tags: Atlanta Hawks Oklahoma City Thunder