This season has definately not looked the way many people, fans or expert analysts expected it to look this deep into the season thus far. I am more than certain no one had the Hawks, who were 38-44 in 2013 and crawled in at the 8 slot to be a playoff seed. To being a potential 60 game winning team that is scoring 103 a night and playing some great defense as well.
The Hawks have one of the deepest and most complete teams in the Eastern Conference. And with Mike Budenholzer coaching them, he has kept them motivated, playing great team ball. The Hawks have been making good teams look bad, by playing good basketball. Many naysayers have wanted to throw a lot of what they have done this season, as being a lucky team. But, after 50+ games it’s about that time to seriously look at this team as a title contender. I question if the Cavs can guard them, I don’t see the Wizards being able to outscore them. And on top of that, the Bulls have absolutely no continuity.
The sign of any good team is to handle your business vs the inferior teams as well. They have obliterated the inferior opponents they have faced. Taking down teams that the top 5 in the East should beat. And they have also compiled a pretty impressive win streak as well, with their big 19 gamer. If you have any question as if the Hawks are truly currently in the mix, do not dismiss them because of the schedule they have been handed, early in the season.
The East is wide open, so why not the Hawks this year?
They have had many guys on the team contribute, which reminds me of the Detroit Pistons in a weird sort of way, when they had Rip, Chauncy and Rasheed Wallace as their team in 2003, when they were a title winner. Where there biggest and baddest scoring threat was Rip, dropping 18 a night.
Paul Milsap has been excellent in his role. Jeff Teague has been fantastic, scoring the ball at 17 a game, and his ball distribution as well, 8 dimes. He has quick hands, making plays that are both smart and decisive. Teague has seemingly stepped in to play the “Tony Parker” type role, by his distributing the ball and scoring when needed.
They are showing some styles that are similar to some of the past great teams, playing a style like the Spurs have in the past, as well as the Pistons of the past. Playing with confidence and great teamwork. They change their game and they know the biggest threats on the court, and they then adjust to the biggest threats. And when on offense, they stay spaced out on the court, to make the right basketball play repeatedly.
As far as the team goes, the man who keeps the wheels going forward has been Al Horford, the biggest key to the teams success. Big Al has progressed from the one dimensional player from the past. He has bounced back after his torn right pectoral muscle that had him lose the majority of last season. Horford has returned this year as the anchor, on both the offensive side as well as the defensive side of things.
They would not be nearly this good without his solid shooting. He makes opposing defenses break down in the middle because of him, as well as his midrange game, spreads the court a bit as well.
Horford, has finally seemd to come into the game. He has played better than he has in 8 seasons. He gives the Hawks a big enough presence in the paint to disrupt opponents’ offenses. And, he has shown he can protect the rim as well, with his shot blocking ability.
The fact that the Hawks have so many playmakers, he may not always be able to showcase his importance, on the scorebard and stuffng the stat lines. If he actually had the freedom to play loose every night, his numbers would be even more imressive. Al is not expected to get your typical center rebounding numbers, in the 10-12 range. They like to keep the team spacing, and rebounding has been a team effort, which is why 5 players are getting 4 or more boards a game.
Horford could easily average 24 and 10 if he played more on his own style of play, but that’s not the case. He has bought in full fledged, and is into the Hawks system. And he is with them 100%. The best players are willing to sacrifice their own stats for the team. unfotunately, it’s not often enough. Without Horford, the Hawks would be a very average team, and would not be nearly the team they are now. To put into perspective, Horford has scored in double figures all but a handful of games, including many 20 point games, this season. He has a multitude of double doubles.
Knocking down 54% from the field, which is currently at 9th best in the NBA. As far as a defender he is 21st in the league in blocks. If the Hawks keep going in this direction, with Big Al, healthy, and in the lineup, they truly are one of the most impossible teams to defend.