NBA Odds makers give the Atlanta Hawks a slight chance to win it all. Are there any picks we can profit from? They have been the surprise team in the Eastern Conference this season.
Only the Golden State Warriors have surprised more this NBA season than these Atlanta Hawks (53-17, 106.2 PPG-97.4 PTS), a team which presently ranks 2nd in the league in Passing (25.4 ppg), 6th in Scoring Defense (97.4 ppg) and 9th in Points (106.2 ppg). This team is the real deal in a lot of fundamental basketball ways, but the two seemingly big problems for the Hawks are that this wonderful record was amassed against the denizens of the Eastern Conference and that this team—both players and coaching staff—just don’t have a great deal of experience playing in the Playoffs, let alone deep into the Playoffs. Besides these strength of schedule and perceived experience issues, the Hawks (5/2 to win Eastern Conference, bet365) also have a pretty big problem most casual fans and even gamblers probably haven’t thought of yet with the reality that Atlanta advances from the First Round past the conference’s No. 8-seed, that it will then promptly get the winner of the No. 4-No. 5 matchup which looks like, at this point in Time at least, the survivor of the (No. 4-seed) Chicago Bulls (42-29) and (No. 5-seed) Washington Wizards (40-30) series. So, the Hawks could very well cruise past a very weak No. 8 seed (Hornets, Celtics) and then be bum-rushed by maybe a game Bulls team with a good and more experience Playoffs coach (Tom Thibodeau) and maybe even injured Derrick Rose making his return. Facing the Bulls in the Second Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs would be an extremely challenging reality for a still-molding and growing Atlanta roster and if NBA odds makers make the Hawks favorites over Chicago in this theoretical Round 2 East matchup, my thought is that taking the Bulls as an underdog to win the series and upset Atlanta would be smart sports gambling. We’ll see how it all pans out and I also believe that if it’s the Washington Wizards (12/1 to win Eastern Conference, Ladbrokes) the Hawks end up facing in Round 2, that they could also knock off Atlanta and may provide some value.
Whatever happens, this Hawks team and coaching staff should be extremely proud of what they have done so far this season in such a short span of Time and few NBA pundits pegged this team’s quick rise. The 13 players Atlanta has (and will have) on its Active Roster can all score, all know their role and don’t really have to worry about any star issues—a really good thing for team chemistry and the philosophy of winning as a team. And that’s their greatest attribute in my mind and the one that can maybe get this team to the NBA Finals this season, but probably not good enough to win it all just yet. Either way, it’s really nice to finally have a good and viable NBA product on the hardwood at the Phillips Arena in Hotlanta again. It’s really been awhile, brother.
Possible Starting Five
C—Al Horford (15.0 ppg. 7.4 rpg)
PF—Paul Millsap (17.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
SF—DeMarre Carroll (12.1 ppg, 5.2 apg)
SG—Kyle Korver (12.3 ppg, 50.3% 3-Pointers)
PG—Jeff Teague (16.3 ppg, 7.0 apg)
Bench, Roster Depth
C—Pero Antic (5.7 ppg)
PF—Elton Brand (2.6 ppg)
SF—Austin Daye (1.5 ppg)
SG—Kent Bazemore (5.0 ppg)
PG—Dennis Schröder (9.7 ppg)
C—Mike Muscala (3.5 ppg)
PF—Mike Scott (7.5 ppg)
SF—Thabo Sefolosha (5.1 ppg)
SG—John Jenkins (4.9 ppg)
PG—Shelvin Mack (5.2 pgg)
Injuries, Coaching, Intangibles (Potential Path)
The Hawks have just a couple of minor injury issues at this point in time with second-team PF Mike Scott (toe) out for the next 2-4 weeks—probably the bulk of the Regular Season—and, second-team SG Thabo Sefolosha (calf) still out nursing his injury but reportedly expected to return, maybe even as soon as Wednesday night when the Hawks head south to the Amway Center in Orlando to face the lowly Magic (22-50) in a Southeast Division tilt (NBA League Pass, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT). As far as any potential playoff matchups and The Potential Path which Atlanta may have to take just to get to the coveted NBA Finals to have a chance to win the championship for the first time in franchise history. Currently, the Hawks (43-26-1 ATS, 21-14 ATS Home, 22-12-1 ATS Away) are in the throes of a 3-game losing streak in which Atlanta (5-5 L10) allowed an un-Hawks-like 117.0 ppg and opponents to hit 44.2% from Three-Point Land and over 50% from the Field in all three games. But the Hawks still sit firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference 8 games up on LeBron James and the 2nd-place Cleveland Cavaliers (46-26).
So, Atlanta will definitely be the No. 1 seed in the East and will play the No. 8 seed, meaning that the Hawks will be playing either the now 8th-place Charlotte Hornets (30-38) or the 9th-place Boston Celtics (30-39) in Round 1—both series’ the upstart Hawks should roll through. What Atlanta doesn’t want with just 10 games left in its Regular Season is the now 7th-seeded Miami Heat (32-37) to somehow slip down to that 8th spot as a Hawks-Heat showdown might end up being a nightmare for the top seed from the Peach State. And, as far as Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff, the lack of experience coaching in the postseason could be an issue, but playing in the paltry Eastern Conference with such a solid 15 (though mostly unknown to some) on his roster, should be all right and will definitely grow as a coach in April and May.
This team may have the best 13-15 players who can all be expected to score points on its roster and the Atlanta Hawks present theoretical Third-String squad is as intimidating and solid as its’ Second-Stringers. Quietly hiding out in the crappy Eastern Conference—which may very well send three sub-.500 teams to the Postseason—in the crappy Southeast Division is a good way to run to the best record in the conference but this team will really be tested in the NBA Playoffs and most teams they face will go in not scared of Atlanta, despite the wonderful roster and record this 2014/2015 NBA season. But after profiling the Cleveland Cavaliers here earlier at Sportsbook Review, the Hawks second stringers do seem way better than Cleveland’s and this team’s Bench Depth is surprisingly good. Can Atlanta’s role players continue to thrive in the coming playoffs—which begin on Saturday, April 18—when things only get tougher and only the strong and usually experienced and well-coached end up surviving? The play of players like DeMarre Carroll, 32-year-old Macedonian C Pero Antic and 21-year-old German PG Dennis Schröder will likely end up determining how far this team can go in the Playoffs, but the good thing about being deep like the Atlanta Hawks now are is that anyone can provide scoring and all five starters are averaging in double-digit scoring as you can see above.
What are the potential problems to note before placing NBA picks? Right now the Hawks coaching staff is said to be worried about their team’s “rhythm” and Atlanta only rank 29th in the NBA in Rebounding (40.5 rpg). But a team’s rhythm is expected to when embarking on a three-game Road swing against three of the strongest teams in the league (the Warriors, Thunder and defending champion Spurs), especially when their Zip code is in great state of Georgia where basketball is like Spam.
Because teams have to win if they are lucky enough to still be playing professional basketball from April to June in the NBA, and because Atlanta just doesn’t have that NBA Playoff experience or a really tested and true leader on the court who can drive the team psychically and mentally through what this team will likely have to go through just to even win the Eastern Conference. With experienced Playoff teams like the Bulls, Heat and the Cavaliers, to a degree (when LeBron first played for his hometown city), the Postseason probably won’t be as easy as this wonderful Regular Season has been for the Hawks. But one good thing for Atlanta is that there will definitely still be a number of teams in both conferences like themselves, proud to be playing so well and headed for the postseason, but absolutely scared to death that they won’t know what to do once they get there due to not having that thick body of work called Relevant Experience to fall back on in their primarily Young Heads. Teams like the one with the best record in the NBA, the Western Conference’s Golden State Warriors (56-13; Name the Finalists: Hawks-Warriors 9/1, Sky Bet), as well as Eastern Conference teams whom all could end up in this Eastern Conference’s Postseason including the current (Monday afternoon) 3rd-place Toronto Raptors (42-28), the 5th-place Washington Wizards (40-30), the 6th-place Milwaukee Bucks (34-26) and maybe the 8th-place Charlotte Hornets (30-38). The Hawks should be able to hang with and beat any of those all unseasoned Eastern Conference opponents should they lock horns in the NBA Playoffs, but in that aforementioned Second Round, and if they get there, the Eastern Conference Finals, will reveal exactly how hard it is for more inexperienced teams like Atlanta to beat other teams with the better coaches and veteran players who have been there before. In the end, learning how to win requires a lot of losing first, and the Hawks may get a reminder of who’s who in the Eastern Conference come May.
PREDICTED PLAYOFF DESTINY: Hawks eliminated by Chicago Bulls in Eastern Semifinals
RELATED NBA PICK: Chicago Bulls (as underdogs) over Hawks to win possible (if) East Semifinals Series