Hawks playoff history: Can Atlanta reach new heights sans Joe Johnson?


After five years of falling short with Joe Johnson leading the way, the Atlanta Hawks take a new approach to the playoffs this year.

The Atlanta Hawks have been a very good team for long time. Last summer, they finally decided that wasn't good enough and began a new course.

Funny thing is, that new course looks an awful lot like the old one.

In the final five seasons of the Joe Johnson era in Atlanta, the team won 56 percent of its games, earning a decent seed each year. Now without Johnson, here the Hawks are, winning 54 percent of their games en route to a sixth seed in the East.

Is this Hawks team better? Looking at the statistics, probably not. The offense has survived just fine without Johnson's scoring skills, but losing the length provided by him, Marvin Williams and Kirk Hinrich has cost the defense -- the team is giving up three points more per 100 possessions this season, per NBA.com.

But at the very least, this team is different, and set up far better financially. Giving a quick review of the team's playoff results over the past five things, throwing something different at the wall probably isn't the most unreasonable thing.

2008: Knocked out in first round by Boston, 4-3. Al Horford was only starter to shoot better than 41 percent for the series.

2009: Knocked out in East semifinals by Cleveland, 4-0. Mike Bibby posts the best shooting percentage of any Hawk in the series. Bibby.

2010: Knocked out in East semifinals by Orlando, 4-0. Bad shooting blah blah blah.

2011: Knocked out in East semifinals by Chicago, 4-2. D-Rose was just too good.

2012: Knocked out in first round by Boston, 4-2. Way to end an era just how you started it, fellas.

With a bunch of big contracts locked in place and those results over a lengthy span, it's not surprising Atlanta GM Danny Ferry immediately set out to reshape the franchise after being hired last year. Among his first moves was trading Johnson's immense contract to the Brooklyn Nets for spare parts, a deal that sets the team up for huge cap space this summer.

The rest of the moves that came after the Johnson deal were done with a clear nod towards future flexibility: swapping Williams for Devin Harris' expiring deal, signing Lou Williams to a reasonable deal, trading for a practically free Kyle Korver ... these were the moves of a team deftly trying to stay competitive while moving forward.

Entering the summer, the Hawks could be in for another year of change. That could be when things really get interesting.

Smith hits free agency this summer and could potentially leave. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will surely receive overtures from the franchise, and we'll see how those are received. And then there's point guard Jeff Teague, who hits restricted free agency coming off a good year. The Hawks will presumably look different again next season, just as they did this season.

That is, unless this year's team does what the past five couldn't do.

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