Paul Millsap grabs a rebound in the win against the Nets on Janurary, 15th. Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images
Coming off the historic and magical 60-win 2014-15 season that landed the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, expectations were sky high. However, things haven’t exactly gone to plan so far this season. Despite not having any major injuries, inconsistency has plagued this Hawks team throughout the first 41 games. Already, we’ve seen the Hawks go on a six and seven game winning streak as well as two three game losing streaks. In addition, the Hawks had a nine game stretch early in the season where they alternated wins and losses. Through the first half, the Hawks already lost more home games than all of last season. The Hawks are currently sitting at 25-17, good for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and 4.5 games behind the 1st place Cleveland Cavaliers. In comparison, the Hawks were 33-8 at the halfway point last year. Atlanta currently owns an one game lead in the Southeast Division over the Miami Heat. Luckily for the Hawks, with the exception of Cleveland, none of the teams in the East have solidified themselves as the 2nd best team in the East. Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami all have valid arguments to back up the claim that they are the second best team in the much improved Eastern Conference.
Throughout the summer, Twitter “analysts” claimed that the loss of DeMarre Carroll would drop us from our 60 wins to anywhere from out the playoffs to 50 wins at best. But, Kent Bazemore has filled in perfectly; providing even better numbers than Carroll posted last year. This year’s “problems” stem from other reasons than the loss of Carroll. Just like last year, rebounding is the Hawks achilles heel. Currently, the Atlanta Hawks rank 29th in the league in rebounding at 40.4 per game. When broken down between wins and losses, the Hawks average a dismal 38.7 RPG in losses and 41.7 in wins. Rebounding effort will have to improve if the Hawks want to accomplish anything in the playoffs. Offseason acquisition, Tiago Splitter who was supposed to be a major solution to this issue has served somewhat as a disappointment. He’s spent about 15 games on the bench due to various injuries and hasn’t put up the scoring and rebounding numbers that we saw in his days as a San Antonio Spurs. When the Hawks move the ball, we still look like the team of last year. Unfortunately, too many times this season, the ball doesn’t move and the Hawks play stagnant ball. The Hawks are averaging nearly five more assists in wins than in losses. In order to have a successful second half, the Hawks got to return to their solid ball movement. Despite having a 4-4 record in January, the offense is slowly starting to click. This month, the Hawks are starting to average four more assists and five more points per game than in any other month of the season. I think this could serve as a sign of things to come and that improvements on defense are soon to come.
Midseason Hawks MVP: Paul Millsap. Where in the world would this team be if Millsap signed with the Orlando Magic last Summer? Let’s not even think about it and continue to enjoy the career year that he’s giving us.
Prediction: Before the season, I said that the Hawks would go 57-25 and once again fall victim to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the ECF. As of now, I still believe we will find more of a groove and consistency and win about 53 games to earn the second seed in the East. If the offense continues on the upward tick we’ve seen in January added with a better effort in the rebounding department, the Hawks should be fine.
Phil Veasley @ATLHawksPhil