We continue our 2015 NBA playoffs series outlook with the Atlanta Hawks, a team standing atop of the Eastern Conference with the No.1 seed as a result of their impressive regular season winning percentage (.747), including a franchise record 19 wins in a row. Throughout the regular season the Hawks have proven to be a formidable opponent, holding their own versus virtually any team in the league, especially on the road. Overall, they rank No.2 in assists, No.4 in points allowed, and 11th in points per game–not bad for a team very few people ranked among the east elites before the season began.
With such a deep roster, the Hawks have been the most consistent team in the Eastern Conference and appear to have an easy 1st round match-up versus what could be a Brooklyn Nets team that has found their stride late in the season.
The Hawks could find themselves on an easy road to round two of the 2015 NBA Playoffs, but are they a legitimate threat to some of the better playoff teams in the east? Who will be the players the watch?
-Team S.U. debates.
Bobby Bourhis (NBA Contributor, If I Were a GM- Personal Blog): The Atlanta Hawks have impressed all year long, particularly in the first half of the season. For a long time I believed that the Hawks were the favorites to make it to the Finals in the Eastern Conference, but my opinion has changed. The Hawks play strong team defense, as well as very efficient offense. But as long as LeBron James is healthy, then the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be the number one threat in the east. Additionally, the Chicago Bulls might get fully healthy just in time for the playoffs, and therefore remain a serious threat. The key for a deep playoff run for the Atlanta Hawks this season is their frontcourt.
We already know what to expect from Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll, but Al Horford has been a little inconsistent with his shooting in the second half of the season. If Horford is able to put up closer to 20 ppg in the playoffs, then it gives the Hawks a different dimension, and a go-to scorer in crunch time. Paul Milsap will need to remain his usual self, and Jeff Teague needs to continue to attack the basket. In a hypothetical series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the best strategy for the Hawks to take down the Cavaliers, is to bully them down low. With Milsap and Horford, they have the size and scoring advantage in their frontcourt, and exploiting those mismatches to the best of their ability could lead to an NBA Finals birth.
Keith Rivas (Sports Unbiased Writer): From what’s observable, it’s easy to say that the Hawks are the new big time threat to the Eastern Conference and anyone (including LeBron James & Co.) who is looking to get into the NBA Finals through the road less traveled. But looking at it realistically, the Hawks are only going to be a roadblock.
A good comparison to what the Hawks are in the Eastern Conference would be like the spoiled child of the family. They’ve gotten all the attention when it matters most, performed well against some of the better NBA teams — even in losses — and continually seem to be learning from their mistakes.
Don’t let appearances fool you, the Hawks are nothing more than a poster child.
As for players to look from the ATL this postseason, one star I am interested in seeing play is Jeff Teague. Teague is not too experienced with consistency, playoffs, or even a deep title run — but what he is familiar with is how to build nearly indestructible chemistry.
Seeing how Teague is able to keep his fellow Hawks teammates and fans cool under pressure will be the biggest “X-Factor” in determining Atlanta’s playoff success or failure. And since they don’t have any one particular mega-superstar, Jeff Teague might just be close enough of a comparison to get the job done.
But don’t expect them getting out of the first round to be easy.
Sauping R. Arguello (NBA Contributor): The Atlanta Hawks are a very serious threat to every Eastern Conference team this postseason. They will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Hawks four All-Stars (Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Hortford, Kyle Korver) provide a formidable starting five that win with a team oriented system. They have often been compared to the San Antonio Spurs of the east– while I wouldn’t go that far I do see several similarities in their style of play. The big question that is usually asked concerning ATL is, who will be the “go to” guy once games are close and they need a score? I see the Hawks having just as good a chance of coming out of the east as the Chicago Bulls or Cleveland Cavaliers.
I think the players to watch will be each of the four All-Stars mentioned above. Which player will step their game up to the next level and become the “go to” guy in clutch situations. I feel Jeff Teague will have the opportunity to claim the best point-guard in the Eastern Conference if they can advance to the finals. Teague’s statistical numbers don’t jump out of the screen (similar to Tony Parker), but if he can deliver big come playoff time, it’ll separate himself from the competition. Atlanta has yet to be battle tested as a core in the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting if they can sustain the impressive efficiency they have displayed in the regular season.
Jeb Taylor (NBA Contributor): Atlanta has had a fantastic season, and despite their utter dominance, they still don’t receive the credit they deserve. This team beats good teams and embarrasses bad ones. They’ll run through the Eastern Conference playoffs – until they have to meet up with Cleveland. The Hawks just simply can’t match up with the star-power of the Cavs. Al Horford and Paul Millsap will be key components to an Atlanta Hawks’ playoff run. In their inevitable matchup, pounding the rock down low will prevent Cleveland from utilizing their small, offensively-potent lineup. Atlanta needs to develop a formula to beat Cleveland if they want to make an appearance in the NBA finals.
Steve Turner (S.U. NBA Writer): I believe the Atlanta Hawks are still contenders in the east. They clinched the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference by a landslide. This team came out of nowhere this season and I think they will be able to make some serious noise in the playoffs. The main thing I’d be worried about if I’m the Hawks is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs didn’t seem to be a threat in the beginning of the season, but they turned that around completely. The Hawks shouldn’t have a problem in the first round. If the season ended right now, the Hawks would be matched up with either the Boston Celtics or Brooklyn Nets, and I don’t see the Hawks having trouble with either team as Boston doesn’t even have a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.
I think the Hawks are going to go all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, but they will most likely lose to the Cavs. Other than that, the Hawks are going to make noise in the playoffs. I just can envision them beating Cleveland in a seven game series.