Throughout the season, the Eastern Conference continually proved itself to be entirely laughable as a conference. The later time zones were plagued by plodding offenses, inexperienced cores and poor coaching.
The exception to all three of these points, the Atlanta Hawks clearly rose to the challenge as the class of the Eastern Conference. The team was not reliant on any of the starters in their lineup, but rather spreads the responsibility for the team’s success across the starting five. They run their simple offense, read and react.
The team is anchored by center Al Horford, who provides the Hawks with a long rim protector, varied offensive scorer and willing distributor down low. Jeff Teague runs the show on offense by maintaining pace and identifying the weaknesses of opponents defenses. Paul Millsap can score both inside and out, with a faceup or postup game, and he gives the Hawks meat down low without loosing the quick pace. Kyle Korver forces mismatches onto opponents by drawing them with the threat of his stellar shooting. And finally, DeMarre Carroll is the straw that stirs the drink.
A deep bench that includes Dennis Schröder, Elton Brand, Pero Antic, Mike Scott, Shelvin Mach and Kent Bazemore give the Hawks the ability to maintain offensive energy and cohesion throughout the grind of the NBA playoffs. The one thing that holds this team back is a relative lack of playoff experience; only Kyle Korver has ever played in a Conference Finals game.
The Hawks will play the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, and a dominant performance from the Hawks will not prove anything in terms of the teams’ playoff readiness. In fact, the Hawks will probably not face a completely daunting opponent until the Conference Finals, when they likely would face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Chicago Bulls.
When that time comes, the Hawks will be well equipped to make their first Finals in a long time.
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