We’re still fresh into the season but once again the Hawks are in the top of the standings. But can they keep this up to extend their playoff hopes?
Last season the Hawks won 60 games, but were never quite considered a threat to make the Finals (affirming that in the season ending sweep to Cleveland). With their best defended, Carroll, taking more money in Toronto, a step back was assumed to be on the horizon.
Last season they ran an offense that was similar to the Spurs, but could be shut down in the playoffs. You could tell during all three series that it wasn’t the same team. That problem still exists but hopefully for them, to a lesser extent.
Adding Splitter in an offseason trade has opened up the second unit even more than a successful 2014 did. He’s a big asset to their overall defense and is one of the leagues more underrated defenders.
Last season he ranked second in the NBA in low-post defense. He’s also great at pick and rolls and while Teague continues good play, third-year German player Dennis Schroder is a difference maker to watch. Splitter is a great passer from the block or elbow, fitting in with the offense and what Millsap and Horford can do perfectly.
Add him to the long list of great role players the Hawks have.
Schroder leads the second unit and could be a candidate for 6th man of the Year. He will see even more playing time as we get farther through the year, especially now that Atlanta’s focus should be to keep everyone healthy for a spring run.
So are they a better team than last year?
Well, Kent Bazemore is stepping in the starting lineup just fine, average almost 12 points per game and holding his own on the defensive end. And if he’s not enough they have Thabo Shefolosha back and ready to lock down the opposing team’s best player. They will take a step back in the loss column, but likely finish in the top three in the east.
Are they going to be taken seriously when in comes playoff time?
Probably no more than last year. It’s almost the same for any team without a standout star player who can carry a team when nothing else is working.
As for the regular season, they lead the league in assists but aren’t in the top half of defense or rebounding through the first couple of weeks. This is only going to strengthen the case that another playoff flameout is on the way.
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