Atlanta Hawks Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Boston Celtics

With the 2016 NBA Playoffs now underway, let’s take a look at this year’s Atlanta Hawks Playoff Preview.

The Atlanta Hawks are flying under the radar this season. Even with the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference at 48-32, no one seems to think of them as a legitimate threat. In the end, this could actually work in their favor.

Last season the Hawks garnered a lot of attention when they finished with the best record in the East, at 60-32. However, the success didn’t carry over to the playoffs as they fizzled out in the 2nd round. With not as much pressure this time around, the Hawks may exceed expectations. To do that, they will need to improve certain areas of their game.

Keys to Success

Scoring

Atlanta Hawks Playoff PreviewOne of the things that made the Hawks so effective last season was their efficient scoring. They finished with the 6th best offensive rating, 4th best FG% and 2nd highest 3PT%. This season has not been as smooth. Their offensive rating dropped to 17th, while their FG% and 3PT% have dipped to 11th and 15th, respectively.

Kyle Korver was a huge reason why the Hawks’ offense was so great last season. This season his shooting percentages have taken a hit, which could be why the team’s offense isn’t as fluid. Korver hit the three ball at 49.2% last year, 1st in the NBA. He also made 2.9 three pointers a game, which ranked 3rd. As we speak, he presently doesn’t even rank in the top 40 in 3PT%, and is 23rd in three’s per game. The Hawks will need him to find his shooting stroke if they want to make some noise in the playoffs.

Defense

With their offense not being as sharp, it’s been the defense that has kept them competing at a high level. They currently hold a 98.6 defensive rating, which is 1st in the East and 2nd in the league. The solid defense can be linked to their effectiveness of playing the passing lanes and protecting the rim.

They’re currently 3rd in steals (9.1), and 4th in blocked shots (5.9). Their success on the defensive end has led to more offensive opportunities. They rank 4th in points off turnovers (18.6) and 7th in fastbreak points (14.7). Their ability to create offense from their defense will make them true contenders in the East.

Team Play

Paul Millsap has established himself as the Hawks’ best player. He leads the team in PPG (17.3), REB (9.0), STL (1.8) and BLK (1.7). However, the team isn’t built around the success of one player, they need the entire team playing well in order to compete. This is evident when you look at their playmaking contributions.

As a team they rank second in assists per game with 25.7, yet they don’t have a single player on the roster who ranks in the top 20 in this department. Jeff Teague leads the team with just 5.9 assists per game, while backup point-guard Dennis Schroder, is 2nd with 4.4.

The Hawks success depends on good ball movement and unselfish play. Everyone needs to be in sync, otherwise the offense won’t function. For this reason, the only shot the Hawks have of making it out of the East, is if they play together.

(Atlanta Hawks Playoff Preview)