Return of Horford from injury will be significant boost for Hawks…
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The Atlanta Hawks successfully made the playoffs last year, but with the competition heating up in the Eastern Conference will they be able to go so far again?
The Hawks somehow sneaked into the playoffs with a 38-44 record in the regular season, with the numbers giving an indication of how poor the depth was in the Eastern Conference last year.
Nevertheless, they hung on until the end as the New York Knicks threatened to snatch their eighth spot and finished just a game back.
A first round exit against the Indiana Pacers ensured their season didn’t last much longer, but there were signs in that series that Atlanta are capable of causing the top teams problems and they will look to build on that this year.
Budenholzer will need collective effort from Hawks to make post-season
Coach Mike Budenholzer has implemented the San Antonio Spurs style in the Hawks after his spell with Gregg Popovich, and that has led to a lot of ball movement, assists and shared scoring with no one individual superstar hogging the headlines.
It was a successful system last year as Atlanta finished eighth in the East and pushed the Pacers relatively hard in their opening round playoff series. However, the loss of injured forward/center Al Horford was key and although they still kept up the pace, his absence was a significant blow for this team.
Horford returned to his first five-on-five practice drills last week, and he looks as though he should be ready to return in time for the new season. His re-integration will be a huge boost for the franchise, but the likes of Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap will need to pick up from where they left off and take it up another level.
Millsap averaged 19.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season, while Teague scored 19.3 points per contest in a break-out year of sort for the point guard. The Hawks star emerged as a genuine leader and go-to scorer at times, and he will hope to continue his development this year as he benefits from Budenholzer’s schemes to stretch the floor and create space in the lanes.
Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore are amongst the new faces at the organisation this season, but many of the same players remain including Pero Antic, Kyle Korver and Mike Scott who all had solid seasons last time out.
The Hawks haven’t perhaps improved as much as they would have liked, and they have also been hurt by the off-season controversy surrounding their front office. While it looks as though they are moving forward from that together, it remains to be seen if they have enough talent on the roster to keep up their recent success.
Atlanta have a solid roster that will be vastly improved by the return of Horford. However, a look at the teams that missed out on the playoffs last season and a look at the improvements they have made will produce doubts over the Hawks’ ability to compete.
Indiana, Miami, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, Brooklyn and Charlotte will all be expected to back in the mix this season despite their respective injury problems and changes. However, the Cavaliers, Knicks and Pistons will all be pushing to make the post-season and there is a danger that the Hawks will be the team to be pushed out.
While the Hawks have combinations and team-play that will ensure they win their fair share of games, they don’t have a superstar on their roster capable of winning games for them and their bench is questionable. As a result, don’t expect to see them in the playoffs this year…
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Kyle Korver
SF: DeMarre Carroll
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Al Horford
Sixth Man: Thabo Sefolosha