Atlanta Hawks

NBA Newcomers

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NBA Draft has come and gone for another season. In recent years the draft has not been very deep. In most scenarios if you do not hold one of the first three of four picks then you are not drafting a franchise-type player.

This draft was no different. Many experts believed the first four players taken were players that could change the fortunes of an organization but after that, such impact players did not exist.

There were no surprises at the top either. The Orlando Magic took Paolo Banchero number one overall.

Banchero was a star at forward for the Duke Blue Devils. The true freshman averaged over 17 points per game and over 7 rebounds per game.

Banchero is 6’10-250 pounds. He has great size and has a good NBA body. I think Banchero will find success in playing down low and being physical in the NBA, more than he will find with playing at the top of the key and being the main option.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Banchero will be a solid NBA player, but I don’t see him as a superstar; he is a good building block and will be a great core piece for the Magic.

The Atlanta Hawks had the 16th overall pick and with it selected another Duke F, AJ Griffin.

Griffin also has an NBA-ready frame, at 6’6 220 pounds. Griffin started slow for the Blue Devils but became crucial for Duke during their late season run.

Griffin has NBA pedigree as well. He is the son of NBA veteran and Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin. Griffin was also a McDonald’s All-American and was considered one of the top 15 players in last fall’s incoming freshman class.

Missing much of the preseason with a leg injury, the New York native got off to a slow start in his lone collegiate season. Griffin also made the ACC All-Rookie Team. He averaged over 10 points per game for Duke.

What I like the most about Griffin is the ability for him to create his own shot. This will help the Hawks if he can improve on his ball handling and quickness.

The Magic also took Caleb Houstan. Houstan was a F out of Michigan, 6-8 205 pounds. Houstan was the 32nd overall pick.

The Hawks would have had the 44th pick but it was traded to the Golden State Warriors.

The first 5 picks of the NBA Draft were as follows:

 

1.Paolo Banchero-Magic

2.Chet Holmgren-Thunder

3.Jabari Smith-Rockets

4.Keegan Murray-Kings

5.Jaden Ivey-Pistons

Hawks Flying To NBA Finals?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Hawks are making an improbable playoff run.

They just beat the No.1 seed in the East, Philadelphia, in Game 7 of the East Semifinals to advance to the Conference Finals.

They overcame a subpar performance from the team’s star, Trae Young. He was 5 for 23 from the floor. Young did finish with 21 points and 10 assists.

“I knew I had to find a way,” Young said. “My shot was off. My right hand and shoulder were giving out. But my teammates showed up and made plays. I wanted to come through in the end and help them out.”

Shooting guard Kevin Huerter led the team with 27 points, making 10 of 18 shots (55%).

Danilo Gallinari had 17 points off the bench. John Collins had 14 points and 16 rebounds.

“This team is special, man,” Huerter said. “Everybody has counted us out all year. For us to make it this far and win in this building in Game 7, it’s huge for us.”

Lloyd Pierce was fired as the head coach and Nate McMillan was named interim head coach on March 1, 2021. The Hawks went 27 – 11 and won the Southeast division.

“I felt like they were built for this moment tonight to win this game,” Coach Nate McMillan said.

MVP runner up Joel Embiid had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 8 turnovers playing with a meniscus tear in his right knee.

The other star for the Sixers, Ben Simmons played poorly. He only had 5 points in the game and routinely passed up open shots. In the series he shot 33% from the free throw line, which is clearly terrible.

Atlanta had been 0-9 in Games 7s on the road. Now they are advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015.

This marked only the second year since 1973 — when the NBA began seeding for the playoffs by conference — when neither No. 1 seed will make the conference finals. The Clippers eliminated West No. 1 seed Utah.

“We gave them life from Game 1,” 76ers forward Tobias Harris said. “It’s a young, hungry team.”

The next test waiting for Atlanta are the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 3 seed in the East. The Bucks are led by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, AKA the Greek Freak.

This season he averaged 28.1 ppg, 11 rpg and 5.9 apg. He makes 56.9% of his field goals but he plays close to the basket. He only shoots 30.3% from the three-point line. In Game 7 against the No. 2 seed Brooklyn Nets, he had 40 points and 13 rebounds.

The deciding factor in the series will come from the rest of the team. Giannis will play well, but he needs help from his teammates.

Small forward Kris Middleton averaged 20.4 ppg and 6 rpg this season. If he plays well consistently Milwaukee will be tough to beat.

Game 1 is Wednesday, 8:30 pm in Milwaukee. We will see if the Hawks can continue to be road warriors and steal the opening game.

I think the playoff run comes to an end for Atlanta. I expect the Bucks to win in 6 games.

True To Atlanta

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Wednesday night the Atlanta Hawks pulled off one of the greatest late-game comebacks in Hawks’ history.

The Hawks were losing by 24 with 2:10 left in the third quarter in a game where Atlanta seemed out of sorts from the beginning.

After being down by as many as 26 points in Wednesday night’s game 5, the Hawks would have to climb their way out of a hole that they dug early.

So, who would bet against the Hawks this time? The answer… almost everyone (including me), but fortunately most everyone was very wrong.

Throughout the first half of Game 5 in Philadelphia, the 76ers appeared to play their best basketball of the series. They were swinging the ball from wing to wing making the Hawks get set to play defense instead of leaking out in transition for easy buckets.

Philadelphia continued to shoot over 50% from the field. As they have throughout this series, it looked like the Hawks had no answer, especially for Embiid.

Joel Embiid began his night having his way with Clint Capela allowing him to taunt the crowd while playing very aggressive and physical. For a 76ers fan that is what you want, but then things began to turn in favor of Atlanta.

As many of the coaches and players on this resilient Hawks team have said before, ‘this team never quits’, and they don’t. As a fan of Atlanta sports, I must say that it is really nice being on the other side of an epic collapse throughout a game in which the 76ers should’ve won by 20, if not 30.

Throughout the first half of game 5 the Hawks could not buy a basket, nothing seemed to roll their way, until the 76ers seemed to take their foot off the gas then things changed.

After being down by 24 late in the third quarter, Atlanta quickly went on an 8-2 run to close out the third shifting the momentum in favor of the Hawks, which ultimately carried through the end of the game.

This Atlanta Hawks team has made it clear they have weapons; the trick is just finding what weapons are working on any given night.

Wednesday night those game-altering contributions came from the veterans Danilo Gallonari and the Atlanta native, Lou Williams. With each respectively adding 15 and 16 points while coupling with their veteran leadership in the playoffs is important for this young Hawks squad.

Along with the veteran contributions, it all begins with your star player and his approach. In this case, as we all know, that would be Trae Young.

Young’s ever-rising superstar status has been highlighted throughout this series and this playoff run.

Last night, Trae dropped a playoff career-high 39 points, while stealing game 5 from Philly in Philly giving Atlanta a 3-2 series lead with game 6 Friday in Atlanta.

Only one win separates the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks from the Eastern Conference Finals.

Flying Through Playoffs

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Heading into this series against the Knicks, the Atlanta Hawks knew that they were the more talented team.

The young Hawks squad, led by All-Star Trae Young, never seemed to be bothered by the physical antics that the Knicks brought with them to get any competitive advantage over the Hawks. However, it might’ve been the opposite of what the Knicks wanted because it only seemed to make things worse.

In his first ever playoff series, Trae Young averaged 29.2 ppg and 9.8 apg and shot 44.1% from the floor vs. the Knicks. It’s safe to say he put on a show by making play after play for Atlanta.

For the entire series, New York fans were giving the Hawks all they could handle but they responded from a Game-2 loss in New York with three straight wins to close out the series in dominating fashion.

Strangely enough the Hawks played their worst game statistically in Game-5 and still came out with a 103-89 win. Showing evidence of Nate McMillan’s coaching impact bringing the Hawks, who are known to be a defensive nightmare, to leading the playoffs in scoring defense.

To McMillan credit he has turned the Hawks around from a very disappointing season to being just where they had hoped they would be at the start of the season.

What is probably the most exciting part of this team besides going 33-13 since McMillan became the interim Head Coach, is the fact this is not all Trae Young’s doing, everyone is contributing.

The Hawks bench of Huerter, Williams, and Gallonari are all valuable parts to this team’s success while Williams and Gallonari are a part of the few Hawks with playoff experience.

Also, the additions of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela continue to look better and better as this team continues to make its playoff run.

After many years in Houston reaching the Western Conference Finals and being a role player, Capela is finding a home in Atlanta and resembling the Hawks legend Dkembe Mutumbo while doing it.

Capela is currently second in playoff blocks and third in playoff rebounding, continuously proving that he is a difference maker while on the floor.

As for Bogdanovic, he currently has the fifth highest plus/minus of anyone in the playoffs at +78 while giving Atlanta another dependable offensive talent. Bogdanovic’s impact goes further than numbers due to his defensive ability as he showed throughout the first round.

After clinching their spot in the eastern conference semifinals, the Hawks will try and continue to do damage to their opponents but this is no easy feat.

Through the three regular season meetings between these two clubs the Sixers won two of them and when you look at these teams on paper there might be a clear favorite.

However, over the last few months the Hawks have shown they’re nothing to mess with either while both the Hawks and the 76ers have posted a 31-12 record since March 1st.

Even with Philly potentially missing their MVP candidate in Joel Embiid I’m sure most people will write the Hawks off, but after what I just witnessed, I’d say the Hawks will give the 76ers fits.

Raising The Level

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As a fan of the NBA, I often get caught in conversation about how NBA Coaches are much less valuable than the infamous coaches of college basketball.

However, unlike college, the NBA coaches also have to fit into the culture of a ballclub just as much as their players do because they are the messengers between players in the locker room and executives.

Therefore, anyone still doubting the significance of NBA coaches should take a look at what Nate McMillan has done in Atlanta since taking over for Lloyd Pierce earlier this season.

Since Nate McMillan took over as Interim head coach for Atlanta, the Hawks are 25-11 and currently sitting with the fifth seed in the Eastern conference; clinching their first playoff berth since the 2016-2017 season.

Usually when teams turn things around midway through the season it is because they were aggressive in trades before the deadline. However, Atlanta has largely had the same roster since the beginning of the season with the exception of trading Rajon Rondo for Sixth Man Lou Williams. Clearly, allowing the numbers show that McMillan has turned this Hawks organization around and it seems to have the future looking bright for the next few seasons.

McMillan is not new to this; he has been coaching in the NBA since 1998 when he was with the Seattle SuperSonics and later became the Head Coach of the organization in 2000.

Since then, McMillan has since been named Head Coach for the Portland Trailblazers as well as the Indiana Pacers before becoming the interim Head Coach for Atlanta following Pierce’s departure.

McMillan’s most recent stint prior to Atlanta was with the Indiana Pacers, where he spent the past four seasons and had agreed to a two-year extension before getting fired after getting swept by the Miami Heat in the opening round of the playoffs a season ago.

The decision to fire McMillan came after being swept in three of the four playoff appearances and never being able to get to the second round during his time in Indiana.

However, McMillan ended his tenure with the Pacers with a 183-186 overall record involving many devastating injuries, like their All-Star Victor Oladipo.

Before McMillan became Interim Head Coach, the Hawks never seemed to have an organized offense and were just out there to have fun, often resulting in losing late in games and/or losing to teams that they should beat.

Since McMillan was given the promotion, the Hawks have seemingly been much better being consistent in late game situations as well as winning the winnable games that are needed to reach the playoffs.

Also, McMillan has done an outstanding job being able to coach around significant injuries to players with a big role by finding dependable production of Atlanta’s bench.

Throughout McMillan’s coaching career and into this season with the Hawks he has shown that he is able to win with just about any five guys on the floor proves that he should be in the Coach of the year race this season.

I know he has only been with the organization for a few months but the turn around the Hawks have seen since being 14-20 has been astonishing.

Even if McMillan isn’t a part of the discussion the least the Hawks organization could do is to hire him as Head Coach for the next few seasons and keep heading down this path he has forged for the young Hawks squad.

Hawks Anchor

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

A year ago, the Atlanta Hawks were sitting in the 14th spot out of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, assuring themselves a lottery selection in the upcoming draft.

Even after making the sixth pick in last year’s draft, the trade the Hawks made prior to the trade deadline a season ago continues to prove to be a win for the future of the Hawks Franchise.

On February 5th, 2020, The Hawks acquired Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets in a four-team deal where Atlanta contributed a first round 2020 pick and second round pick in 2024 while also sending Evan Turner to Minnesota.

A full 14 months later this trade continues to look better and better for the Hawks with Capela’s consistent performances this season.

Capela has been an enormous part of the Hawks comeback season that began after the All-Star break, as well as after firing former head-coach Lloyd Pierce.

Those high-pressure decisions seemed to give the Hawks a much-needed breath of fresh air and are now finding themselves in the top half of the Eastern Conference.

With a little over a month left in the NBA season it isn’t crazy to think Clint Capela could be a serious Defensive Player of the Year candidate this season.

This season Clint Capela is averaging just over 15 PPG, as well as a career-best in rebounds (14.2 RPG) and Blocks (2.2 BPG).

When Atlanta decided to trade for Capela last February they only wished he would come with as much upside as he has.

Capela has been the defensive anchor in the middle of the paint and one of the best rim protectors throughout the entire NBA.

Playing Center in the NBA today is much more challenging for the centers of Clint Capela’s size and much more favorable for the undersized big men like Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green.

With the floor spread it makes centers, like Clint Capela, come out and guard on the perimeter, making them have to handle a high pick and roll action or maybe rotating out to the shooter open in the corner.

Throughout this season Clint Capela has been the difference-maker on the floor for the Hawks.

His ability to protect the rim allows the guards for Atlanta to guard the ball with intense pressure. Capela is currently leading the league in rebounds and third in blocks, hopefully his numbers begin to catch some eyes as Capela is posting numbers similar to the two-time DPOY in Rudy Gobert.

In January, Clint and the Hawks played against the Timberwolves and he was able to get a rare triple-double with 10-blocks in one game, the only issue is the Hawks defensive ability drastically decreases when he takes a seat.

In recent years, it has only been Trae Young’s offense that sold tickets to State Farm Arena, now the Hawks are beginning to look like a complete team again for the first time since 2017.

If Clint Capela is able to continue to post numbers like these, it won’t be long before Atlanta sees their first Defensive Player of the Year award winner since Dikembe Mutumbo went back-to-back in 96-97 and 97-98.

My only question is why aren’t people talking about this more?

On The Block

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

To begin the Month of March, the Atlanta Hawks were sitting at a 14-20 overall record. That record would’ve left them out of the playoffs for the fourth straight season if the season ended at the All-Star break.

Atlanta had one of the most aggressive free agencies of the offseason throughout the NBA, by signing guys like Dalino Gallanari and Bogdan Bogdanovic. However, the Hawks have not seen all that much improvement from a statistical standpoint.

Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk has made it clear to the fans that the organization is craving a playoff push throughout the second half of the season.

Beginning with the firing of former Head Coach Lloyd Pierce, who had a record of 63-120 during his tenure in Atlanta.

The Hawks have now appointed an established coach throughout the league in Nate McMillan, who led the injury riddled Pacers to playoff appearances each of the past two seasons without their star players.

Since the Hawks have named McMillan the interim Head Coach of the Basketball club, he has posted a 6-0 record giving Atlanta their longest win streak since the 2016-17 season as well as catapulting them into the seventh spot in the East.

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, (March 25th at 3:00 ET) look for Atlanta to continue to be aggressive with trades as they try to solidify a much-needed playoff appearance for the organization.

The biggest name that has been floating around the rumor mill from Atlanta is the fourth year forward, John Collins out of Wake Forest.

This upcoming offseason Collins will be a restricted free agent due to the fact Collins rejected the $90 million contract extension from the Hawks last offseason.

However, by not signing that extension with the Hawks, Collins has put himself in a great position for a much larger contract opportunity this upcoming offseason with his production of the floor this season.

NBA experts currently have Minnesota and Boston as the frontrunners to land Collins, but the Hawks are hungry for more talent in return that will help them win now.

As much as the Hawks executives would love to be able to flip John Collins’ contract into more young talent, the $4.1 million contract that Collins currently has doesn’t make a lot of options for the Hawks to add another established player to their roster.

Also, I think it’s safe to say that Atlanta would not match offers exceeding $100 million for Collins this offseason with the pool of talented bigs they already have.

Another name that could be added to the trading block for Atlanta would be the young shooting guard, Kevin Huerter. Huerter is a proven shooter, while also a defensive liability for the Hawks. In today’s NBA there are a number of guys who can fill that role.

The Hawks, who are currently 10th in the league in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive, would like to be inside the top 15 in both of those areas to put themselves in the best position moving forward.

However, Kris Dunn who has yet to see action this season as well as Deandre Hunter returning from injury by the beginning of April, Atlanta will regain their defensive anchors on that end of the floor.

Although there is no clear picture of how the hawks will attack the trade deadline, it is sure to be an entertaining week as they will explore each and every option possible.

Descending Hawks

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Hawk fans across the country seemed to be optimistic about this season with Atlanta looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 when they played the Washington Wizards.

In order to reach those goals, Atlanta needs to win games and losing to the Knicks like they did recently 123-112 isn’t going to cut it.

Almost exactly a year ago the Hawks traded for Houston center Clint Capela but fans had to wait until this season to see him in action due to a heel injury.

However, so far this season Capela has averaged 13.9 ppg, 14.0 rpg, and 2.2 blocks per game which, to a team that ranked 27th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency, is a tremendous addition to a team with great shooting ability.

The Hawks appear to be a team stacked with a young talent, and with young talent in today’s NBA that usually suggests many jump shots.

Atlanta does fall into the stereotype but they do it quite well. Behind the fan favorites in Trae Young, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter, the Hawks have no shortage of shooting.

Hawks General Manager, Travis Schlenk even added depth for the shooters with additions of Gallinari and Bogdanovic, while also bringing in veteran leadership.

The numerous offseason moves made Atlanta look like they were going to be able to compete with everyone this season. The Hawks had people buying what they were doing early on while they were able to hang with the Nets on back-to-back games.

Now, with Atlanta sitting at 12-16 and third in the division (11th in the East), they are just a few spots out of the playoffs and Hawks All-Star hopeful Trae Young wants nothing less.

There is no doubt that Trae Young and company can sell tickets, but in a world where nobody can buy those tickets these consecutive losses seem much larger to the fans at home.

The Hawks are currently on a four-game skid beginning with their first nationally televised game of the season a week ago against the Mavericks.

Since then, they have taken losses from the Spurs, Pacers, and Knicks, all of which by more than 10 points. So, I think it is fair to say that Atlanta is in a slump and giving up 120 points a game isn’t going to make it any easier.

Although Clint Capela is having a career year, he can’t do it all. The Hawks need to have the veteran leadership from Gallinari and Rondo (who just won a championship last season) begin to assert themselves for the young and inexperienced players.

The three best defenders for Atlanta are Capela, Hunter, and Collins, all of which are consistently in the starting five for Head Coach Lloyd pierce. So, while the Hawks added many shooters to try and keep scorers on the floor, they have not been able to add depth and strengthen the defensive side of the ball.

I am not saying it is abandon ship mode in Atlanta, however, I am saying it is gut wrenching time. With the All-Star break a month away, teams and players will be putting their best foot forward to try and set themselves up to be in contention for a top eight seed within the conference while others will look to distance themselves from the pack.

If Atlanta cannot begin to turn things around, Hawks fans will begin to point a finger at someone here soon.

Soaring Down South

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Hawks have devoted the last three seasons to growing and building their organization since parting ways with then head coach Mike Budenholzer in 2017.

However, this season looks different as the 2021 NBA regular season is underway.

Preparation for the 2021 season began early last February by making moves to bring former Houston Rockets Center Clint Capela to the city of Atlanta.

General Manager Travis Schlenk continued to work to add more talent through a lottery pick to catapult Atlanta to an NBA championship contender in the upcoming season.

This move landed names such as Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, reigning NBA champion Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn and sixth pick Onyeka Okongwu from University of Southern California, putting Atlanta in a position to be one of the eight-best teams in the Eastern conference.

Adding to the mix, the talented young superstar Trae Young, who is looking to achieve some milestones.

Young is a key component to the Hawks success this year and with his ability to showcase his talent, he is certain to receive a contract extension when his rookie contract ends in 2022.

Atlanta’s talent pool combined with the NBA’s new play-in format to get into the playoffs, Atlanta just has to be a top 10 Eastern Conference team to earn a position in a three-game series to determine the two final seeds.

Moving into the season, the Hawks strength is offense. Last season, the Hawks were fifth in the league in their offensive rating at 111.2 points per game, proving that they can score on anyone.

The Hawks entire offense, centered around Trae Young, accompanied by John Collins and Kevin Huerter, is modeled after Golden State’s offense using Young as Stephan Curry in Atlanta’s system.

With the addition of Bogdanovic and Gallinari, who are two solid role players that can put the ball in the hoop, the Hawks open up more scoring options for the team.

The Hawks offense will also be strengthened by allowing Trae Young to take on a leadership role on the floor, playing off the ball as well as allowing him to play freely within the system.

It is important to circle back around to the addition of two-time NBA Champion Rajon Rondo.

By acquiring Rondo, the Hawks balance the team with some much needed veteran leadership after the retirement of the long-time great Vince Carter.

Rondo is a great role-player. Throughout the Lakers Bubble appearance last season, Rondo averaged 8.9 points per game along with 6.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

The Hawks needed a key role-player that has been in the league long enough to know how to approach each day with a one-day-at-a-time mentality.

Even though there were many significant improvements made to the offense this offseason, Atlanta is sure to see struggles ahead in their already weak defense.

The additions of Bogdanovic and Galinari will provide entertainment to fans and they will put up a lot of points, but they do not provide much reprieve in the Hawks defense.

Increasing Altitude

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Because nothing can be anything resembling normalcy can exist anymore, the NBA is releasing the schedule for the upcoming 2020-2021 season in two parts – the first chunk covers the starts of the season (right around the corner, on December 22nd) to March 4th, at which they’ll have the All-Star Break.

The remaining schedule will be released at a later time. Ideally, they’ll still get in a full season of 72 games before the playoffs start on May 18th.

However, the big change will be who they play. Each team will play the teams in their own conference three times and will double the usual amount of games against teams from the opposing conferences (from 15 to 30).

There are some extra complexities mixed up in there, but instead of dwelling on those, let’s look at how the announced schedule plays out for the Atlanta Hawks.

The beginning of the schedule, including just four games in December and 16 in January, could be a difficult proving ground for Atlanta.

They’ve got the Memphis Grizzlies, who are just getting started, and the Brooklyn Nets, with whom Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving like to hang out, as half of those December games.

After that, they’ve got two more against the Nets, a road game in Milwaukee, and a trip out west that could be a major challenge.

Those could be backbreaking, but the Hawks certainly have the chance to win at least some of those and then there’s games at the Cavs, the Hornets, the Knicks, the Pistons, and the Timberwolves that Atlanta should have good showings against.

February is going to likely be even more of a challenge. That’s when the Lakers show up, as well as the Mavericks, the Celtics, and the Heat.

That’s all bad pretty news. While the Hawks could upset some of those better teams, that difficult stretch makes it all the more important that Atlanta takes care of business against the teams that they are, in turn, better than.

There’s barely any March schedule to talk about, so that rough February is going to wind down into an All-Star Break that will be well-earned.

How the rest of the year shakes out is yet to be determined, but if the Hawks can play up to the level they expect of themselves, they’ll be in good position.

January really stands out as a month that could swing either way and one in which the Hawks really need to get off to a good start.

There are winnable games to start, and if they can come away with victories, then I think that momentum could help carry them through the tougher games that will pop up as the month progresses.

February is going to be a difficult month regardless of how January goes, so if the Hawks want to make a run towards the playoffs (and they do), the first month of the season is going make or break them.

The Hawks have the potential to be one of – if not the – most improved teams in the NBA this season. This season – or the first half of it anyway – is actually going to help earn that rep, so long as they can win more games than they lose. They don’t need to dominate, just win the games they should and a handful of the ones they could.

If they can pull that off and continue it into whatever the second half looks like they’ll have a great chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-2017 season.