Big thanks to Drew Ditzel and Jason Walker from the excellent Hawks blog Peachtree Hoops for answering some questions about the Bucks' first round opponents. You can check out what I had to say about the Bucks over at their site.
1) Who's the x-factor for the Hawks?
DD: Most important player is and will always be Josh Smith. Joe Johnson and Al Horford are far too consistent whether they are great or bad to be the most important. You just know what you are going to get with those guys. I mean if Joe Johnson does not play then yes than he is the most important thing about the series, but all things being normal, Josh Smith could make this an easy sweep for the Hawks flirting with 5x5's game after game or force seven games through lackadaisical close outs, jump shots, and a lack of focus on the boards.
JW: Josh Smith for me---When he is checked out of the game, it affects a lot of areas for the Hawks---rebounding being the biggest, which is why you saw you some Zaza finishing the game this past week. When he is on, especially defensively, he makes life miserable for opponents. And there is nobody on the Bucks who can play him if he is motivated to going to the hoop.
2) Al Horford outplayed Bogut in both of the team's first two meetings, but in general he always seems a bit underutilized. Do you see the Hawks trying to force the issue more inside with Bogut gone?
DD: No, and you just made me cry a little. Horford will get 8-12 shots. Almost definitely no more, maybe a little less.
JW: Nah--I don't think the Hawks are going to change much of what they do around a matchup---they will likely get the ball down low more to Smith than Al on called sets. We'd like to see the offense move through Al more--he is excellent with the basketball---but that won't change until there is less talent in the backcourt.
3) What kind of teams give the Hawks the most trouble? I'm hoping the answer is scrappy, low talent teams who only shoot jump shots...but if not, how does a team like the Bucks beat this Atlanta squad?
JW: Teams that can attack the rim impact the Hawks greatly. Combine that with a team that is highly energized, good basketball IQs, and moves the ball on offense, and you have a chance. A team like the Bucks have to be able to rebound, force the Hawks into a stale, isolation based offense, and move the ball and make shots. Not having Bogut makes the Bucks more 1-dimensional---the Hawks would've had some serious problems with him in the middle because it might have forced the game outside more. Without him, I'm afriad the answer is hope the Hawks let their guard down mentally (which can happen), win your home court and hope to steal Game 5 in Atlanta.
4) The Bucks were linked with a move for Josh Childress last summer and will probably be giving his agent a call again this summer. Do you expect the Hawks will try to bring him back? How much of it depends on Joe Johnson's future?
JW: I don't think that Mike Woodson and Josh Childress will co-exist, so I guess that remains to be seen. If Joe Johnson leaves, creating a need for more already rostered talent, and Mike Woodson is replaced, I think there's a chance.