NBA Playoffs: The Atlanta Hawks need to get their team right to have a good season
This post-season, the Atlanta Hawks joined a list of East teams which have qualified for the Playoffs with a losing record. Given the number of injuries they battled all through the season including a torn pectoral injury to key player Al Horford, the Hawks were quite lucky to be in the slightly easier Conference and make it to the knockout stages of the season.
Having said that, no credit can be taken away from Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and his gritty group of lads for their performance. They performed well in the regular season and also put up a fight they against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the Playoffs.
Last summer, the Hawks who had a lot of cap space to play around with, were trying to land a double whammy by grabbing Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. They ended up with Paul Millsap for 2 years and 19 million dollars, which at the conclusion of their season turned out to be the smartest move of last year’s summer.
In terms of the success they garnered this season and the financial cum player availability for this off-season, the Hawks are among the top 5 teams in the league well placed for a long competitive future.
Season review: Exceeded expectations to make Playoffs
Budenholzer, formerly part of the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff took over the reigns of the Head Coaching staff for the Hawks at the start of the season. He took his time to establish a system as Atlanta huffed and puffed to a winning 18-14 record through 2 months of the regular season, led by Al Horford’s averages of 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds.
The record just above .500 was however much better than what many predicted and expected from the Hawks.
Five days before the dawn of 2014, Horford sustained a right pectoral muscle tear in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was ruled for the rest of the season. It impacted the team’s performance as they went 10-18 till the end of February.
Budenholzer made a key adjustment to the struggling Hawks playing style by going small, and it worked wonders for the team in their Playoff push for the last spot.
Paul Millsap and Pero Antic, players who took Horford’s place did extremely well helping them qualify for the Playoffs.
An under-rated contribution in the Playoff series against the Pacers is that of young starting point guard Jeff Teague. Teague took advantage of the Pacers loaded front line by using his speed on penetrations, and caused havoc in the paint. It prompted Paul George to take up his assignment in order to curb his effectiveness in the paint.
Possible off-season plans
Atlanta has Horford and Antic at the center position along with veteran Elton Brand for back-up, provided Horford can recover in time. They have Kyle Korver and Mike Scott who can spread the floor with their impressive three pointing shooting ability. Millsap can hit the long ball and put pressure on the defense in the post. The team has two grooming young guards in Jeff Teague and Lou Williams in one spot.
So what do the team look for in the summer?
To get to the next level, the team needs to improve its all-round defense and requires a wing player who can set the tone on defense, to stop the likes of LeBron’s and the Durant’s.
DeMarre Carroll has not lived upto his expectations so far in the league.
Danny Ferry, the General Manager of Atlanta Hawks, will use the team’s cap space in the summer very wisely on the targets that Budenholzer gives him.
The best possible fits for a good wing defender who can also knock down the three are Brandon Rush of the Utah Jazz, Omri Cassipi of the Houston Rockets and Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets. Trevor Ariza is a unrestricted free agent this summer which will fit perfectly, but it is highly unlikely he will be dropped by the Washington Wizards especially after the success they tasted this post-season.