The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the bigger surprises in the NBA this season. Surprises, however, are not always a good thing. Last season, Atlanta rode a hot streak to the Eastern Conference Finals where they ultimately came up short against the Milwaukee Bucks. Trae Young, however, dominated. This season, however, they’ve been fighting for a play-in spot.
Atlanta Hawks – Contenders or Pretenders?
Atlanta is ninth in the Eastern Conference standings. This places them right in the play-in tournament. Sure, it wasn’t where they expected to be, but it still gives them a shot at the playoffs.
The Brooklyn Nets are right ahead of Atlanta. Kevin Durant is back, which gives Brooklyn a great opportunity to stay ahead of Atlanta. Beneath the Hawks are the Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, and New York Knicks. Atlanta probably isn’t too worried about Washington due to Bradley Beal being out, but Charlotte is very close in the standings. Atlanta will probably battle it out for either the ninth or tenth seed.
Atlanta is a great offensive team. They rank seventh in most points per game. This puts them ahead of teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and Denver Nuggets. Atlanta is also fifth in total field goal percentage and third in three-point percentage.
It’s not hard to see why. Young is one of the best pure scorers in the league and he was an All-Star starter. Other scorers on the roster include John Collins, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, and others. This team can fill up the basket and there’s no question about that.
Going back to Young, it’s safe to say he’s ascending amongst the superstars in the league. Not only is this important in a seven-game series, but in do-or-die match-ups such as those in the play-in tournament. This immediately gives Atlanta an upper hand.
The Hawks rarely turn the ball over as well, actually ranking first in the league.
Atlanta is a poor defensive team. Yes, they can score in bunches, but that won’t win them games if they can’t make stops. Their most likely opponent in the first play-in game is Charlotte, and the Hornets rank first in points per game in the league. This may be an issue for Atlanta.
The Hawks can also improve in the rebounding department. They rank 22nd in the league in total rebounds per game. One would think this number would be higher considering Atlanta has two great big men in Collins and Clint Capela. Onyeka Okongwu is also a very solid big man to have off the bench.
Atlanta stuffs the box score, but they’re going to have to bring it defensively if they want a chance in the playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks X-Factor
Young will score and could easily provide double-digit assists on any given night. That won’t change. This leaves Collins as Atlanta’s biggest x-factor.
This season he’s averaging about 16 points and eight rebounds per game. These numbers aren’t bad at all, but Collins is capable of doing so much more. He’s a high-flying rim-runner who can also stretch the floor. Playing with Young should only elevate his status, making him a solid number two option.
Collins needs to get closer to his 2019/20 season for the Hawks to thrive. That season he averaged about 22 points and 10 boards per game.
The Final Verdict for the Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta has plenty of talent to make a run, as seen in last year’s playoffs. Their defense, however, is way too much of an issue. Should they even advance from the play-in as a possible eighth seed, they’ll match up with one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams in the first round. Due to this, the Hawks are pretenders.
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