Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Atlanta Hawks

Kevin C. Cox

The Spurs Travel to Atlanta.

San Antonio Spurs @ Atlanta Hawks

Phillips Arena
Jan. 19th, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: SPSO,FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

While I am typing this preview Admiral Ackbar won’t stop yelling at me. That guy's voice can make it super hard to concentrate. I will address the reasons why this might be a trap game later. However first let us take a look at the endangered Atlanta Hawks. The franchise itself is not in danger (they are not owned by the Maloofs... too soon?) however, the Hawks' current roster is in peril. It all started when Danny Ferry took over and immediately shipped Joe Johnson off to play for a billionaire who uses hundred dollar bills as tortillas in really gross burritos. Before Mr. Ferry came to town, the Hawks seemed content to perpetually be a scootch over .500 every year and maybe make the second round of the playoffs. But with their highest paid player out the door, this now appears to be a team with ambitions. With a bit of Spurs-learned magic the Hawks can be a true Eastern conference contender down the road. This is particularly true since the East has become a cesspool where mediocre teams look like FC friggen Barcelona. There is a reason why this team may look different than the team that the Spurs will again play on April 6th.


Josh Smith is about to get traded, Al Horford could possibly be next.


And there it is. Over at the excellent (and very panicked) Peachtree Hoops, some theorize that every player wearing a Hawks jersey could be traded. And yeah, I also subscribe to this theory. The brutal truth is that while the current Atlanta Hawks roster consists of good players, they are missing a "franchise player". The only way to get that franchise guy is to be in the lottery or trade for one. And since they are probably a playoff team this year, the latter is looking more realistic. In order to get an all-star you have to give up more than someone who is on the last year of his contract.

Most pundits have been saying Josh Smith is gone even before the season started. There was even a common theme in the PtR preseason comments, about how we could get Josh Smith. (It is so not happening) Josh does not look happy. His agent is even having powwows with Danny Ferry. He also just got suspended for doing "something" in practice. The Hawks seem reluctant to say anything on the topic. So basically the trade is not a matter of if but when.

Al Horford’s name is not mentioned a lot in trade rumors (unless you read Atlanta-based blogs). However, Mr. Horford might be a possibility as well. Al is an excellent post player, he's just a strange kind of center / occasional power forward in that he's more adept at scoring than he is at hitting the glass. The Hawks will have to decide if strange but super skilled is an alright combination for them going forward. And if the Atlanta Hawks are real serious about starting over they might have to move their best and most reliable player. So here are three ways that the Hawks change:

Most Likely
Josh Smith along with a few bench players get traded for a decent shooting guard and draft picks.


This team needs a shooting guard. When a former starter now bench guy like Devin Harris is starting, that is a cause for concern. The Hawks will likely trade for someone of "meh" status, and some pretty good picks, with the big possibility of the trade becoming your usual ten cents-on-the-dollar scenario. Still, this gives them much flexibility in the free agent bonanza that is going down this summer. If this team somehow lures Dwight then this team will be the talk of the NBA. Odds are they sign a bunch of lower profile players and come out of the summer with a well-rounded contender.


Less Likely
Josh Smith gets traded for cagey veteran guards and mediocre draft picks, while Al Horford gets traded for a decent center and really good draft picks.


I mean really good draft picks. Like Orlando’s or Washington’s unprotected 2013 first round pick. Furthermore, the center would have to be super decent.(that is another way of saying good) If the Hawks pull this off this is a case of having your cake and eating it too. This would be a risky move for the Hawks considering the lottery is in fact a gamble. However, it certainly worked for Cleveland (no, not LeBron...okay, maybe...at least for a few years), so why not for the Hawks?


Impossible
Josh Smith , Al Horford, and reserves are traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Blake.


This would be stupid. So I am not going to talk about it. Did I mention Danny Ferry was employed by the Spurs? That is why this is labeled under impossible. But hey, stranger things have happened in this league. Like the super team Lakers being 5 games under .500.

Game Analysis:

While something is going on with the Hawks (probably some weird fourth thing), it won’t happen before tonight’s game. So let's talk about the group the Spurs are about to play. They are a dysfunctional and unpredictable group of players. Zaza Pachulia was flirting with a triple double during the Hawks' win against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. Zaza Pachulia! That is literally the first (and second) time I have typed his name out on a computer and actually got the spelling correct.

They preceded that win with a major suckathon against the Chicago Bulls. (And oh yeah they set franchise records in futility during that barn-burner.) So who knows what team is going to take the court?

There are some causes for concern. The Spurs are on a SEGABABA. They are also playing this game in Atlanta. And of course, we are enduring LWM. Again. Yet in this case I am going to politely tell Admiral Ackbar to shut it. Our perimeter players are infinitely better than their perimeter players. (Even before Lou Williams got injured) In fact, their back-court has more holes than a bowl of cheerios that have been anointed by a priest. And while Atlanta’s front-court is as potent as ever, the Spurs will be able to muster out a win with confidence. That is assuming Ivan Johnson doesn't put up a triple 20.

Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Boris Diaw

Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili
Tiago Splitter
Stephen Jackson

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Lineups

Starters
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Devin Harris
SF: Kyle Korver
PF: Josh Smith
C: Al Horford

Key Bench Players

Ivan Johnson
Zaza Pachulia
Mike Scott

Head Coach
Larry Drew

The Hawks' perspective can be found here @ Peachtree Hoops. (Check the site out if you like trade talk)

Game Prediction: Spurs by 9.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

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