D's still the difference

The Hawks' learning curve under Terry Stotts could earn them a passing grade for the playoffs.

Originally Published: October 8, 2003
By Joe Lago | ESPN.com
Editor's note: Here's a glimpse of the good -- and the bad -- that could happen to the 2003-04 Atlanta Hawks.

Best Case Scenario
For the Hawks to sneak into the playoffs in the East for first time since 1999, three things need to happen.

Stephen Jackson
Newly signed free agent Stephen Jackson brings scoring and defense to the Hawks.
1. They're still tenacious on D. After finishing 25th in defensive field-goal percentage (.459) in 2001-02, the Hawks rose all the way to eighth last season (.436) under Terry Stotts. Atlanta finished with such a flourish (21-19 in its final 40 games) largely because of its improved defense. "I want to maintain that," Stotts said.