Atlanta Hawks: Early Contender Despite Preseason Predictions


The Atlanta Hawks received many lackluster predictions entering the season, with many media outlets predicting that the team would not replicate their success of last season’s 60- win campaign.

In multiple predictions on, pundits posited that the Atlanta Hawks would suffer following the loss of DeMarre Carroll in free agency, and predicted that the Atlanta Hawks with the 5th most likely team to win the Eastern Conference, behind Cleveland, Chicago, Miami and Washington. Last week, TNT’s Charles Barkley asserted his belief that the Atlanta Hawks were not one of the Top 5 teams in the East, despite their success last season.

-= Related: Atlanta Hawks Impress on Road, Beat Heat 98-92 =-

Though the loss of Carroll most certainly has had an effect on the Atlanta Hawks this season, the team is riding high on a 4-game win streak, and put the conference on notice with an impressive road victory against the upstart Miami Heat on Tuesday night. Many experts believe the Miami Heat are one of the teams that can challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown in the 2015-2016 season. With an outstanding starting 5 of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, a now healthy Chris Bosh and rebounder extraordinaire Hassan Whiteside, on paper the Heat look like one of the better teams in the East. 

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As previously mentioned, many pundits believed before the beginning of the season that the Miami Heat, not the Atlanta Hawks, were the team to beat in the Southeast Division, and to expect a regression of 15 games from Atlanta this season. On Tuesday night in Miami, the Atlanta Hawks showed the NBA world that the rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. Without DeMarre Carroll, Kent Bazemore has stepped into the starting lineup and has fit in seemlessly. Bazemore has displayed an improved three-point shot, and has demonstrated that he can more than make up for the loss of production due to Carroll’s departure in free agency. Jeff Teague is elevating his game once again this season, and seems primed already to challenge for another All-Star appearance.

Nov 3, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford (15) dunks the ball past Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Hawks won 98-92. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Though somewhat undersized, the Atlanta Hawks front-court is as dynamic as ever, and did an admirably job in containing the Miami Heat’s front-court of Whiteside and Bosh. Hassan Whiteside still had 23 points and 14 rebounds on the night, but all things considered, the Hawks did a great job in limiting the rest of the Heat’s offense. Wade, Dragic and Whiteside scored 63 of the Heat’s 92 points on the night, displaying the job the Atlanta Hawks did defensively on the rest of their team.

By adding Tiago Splitter this offseason, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer can now employ a bigger lineup to mitigate the effectiveness of taller, more physical front-courts. For two consecutive games now, the Atlanta Hawks have out-rebounded their opponents — something that rarely happened last season. This new dedication to boxing out and securing rebounds adds a facet to the Atlanta Hawks that was sorely missed last season, and ultimately led to their demise in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers. 

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Despite all of the preseason predictions in which NBA analysts predicted the Atlanta Hawks would plummet in the standings, the team is coalescing into a contender once again. They have, at times, played sloppily; and have also struggled to put away games in which they have gotten out to double-digit leads — but because it is still early in the season, the Atlanta Hawks are still getting back into the swing of playing regularly after a long offseason. Against the Heat, it was the first game in which the Atlanta Hawks truly looked as if they were beginning to hit their stride.

Of course, it’s easy to overreact and to read into game too much during the early part of the season. Still though, the Atlanta Hawks are now 4-1 and have yet to lose on the road. That is a great indicator for success for an NBA team, even in the early going.

Next: Atlanta Hawks Host Nets in Playoff Rematch

With Chicago seeing some struggles under new Head Coach Fred Hoiberg, Milwaukee floundering a bit early on, and Miami now at 2-2 on the year, the Atlanta Hawks once again look like one of the best teams not only in the Eastern Conference, but the NBA. It would not surprise me a bit if the Atlanta Hawks once again contended for the top seed in the East. Despite all the talk about the team regressing, Mike Budenholzer’s team is proving the NBA wrong once again.