When Bruce Levenson took over the Atlanta Hawks in 2002 the Hawks were coming off of a 33-49 season, ranking as one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. Last year Atlanta won 60 games, made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, and had a shot at going all the way. Levenson just sold his share in the team to a Grant Hill led coalition but it was clear from the get go that he accomplished something special with his time in Atlanta. So what is next for the Hawks under new ownership?
The fact is that Atlanta needs to keep their eyes up while their head stays down. Atlanta rolled to the best record in the Southeast and one of the top records in the Eastern Conference by playing remarkable team basketball and keeping everyone involved at all times while out on the court. Their “no superstar” mode of attack proved to be too much to handle as they rolled through the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs before getting derailed by Cleveland.
With starting small forward Demarre Carroll gone from the team and back up forward Mike Scott looking at possible prison time for felony drug possession, it appears that Atlanta has gotten of to a rough start as the new season looms around. While the appearance is definitely there that things are going south, there are reasons to anticipate continued success in Atlanta.
To put it simply the Hawks rely on their system more than their stars in order to succeed. Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Al Horford, and Paul Millsap are a quality starting four regardless of who comes in behind them. Thankfully their system does well even with bench players assuming larger minutes. The Hawks DID pick up a few notable bench players, as well.
In an attempt to clear space for LaMarcus Aldridge (who passed on Atlanta)a the Hawks acquired both Tim Hardaway Jr and Tiago Splitter. Splitter and Hardaway Jr are two dramatically different players who will both contribute in big ways. Hardaway is a scorer through and through and he’ll bring offense to the second unit. Splitter is a defensive stalwart with soft passing hands and a smooth finish around the rim. He’ll like turn into the fourth big off of the bench.
Still, with so many pieces moving and the Eastern Conference shaking up it appears that Atlanta will be hard pressed to repeat last years record. The Wizards will be getting better due to their young core maturing while the Miami Heat had possibly the best off season in the NBA by acquiring Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green for peanuts. Can Atlanta hold both of those teams off? We’ll see.