The Atlanta Hawks are now in third place of the Eastern Conference with a record of 8-8. Despite losing their last three contests, the Hawks are having an impressive season and are exceeding preseason expectations by almost all accounts.
Atlanta center Al Horford is having one of his best statistical seasons as a pro and has solidified himself as one of the most consistent, multifaceted big men in the league. His 17.1-8.1-2.6 statline is one of the more impressive lines in the league, and he is also averaging a career high 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. Not far behind him is frontcourt mate Paul Millsap, who has so far been worth every penny of his 2 year, $19 million contract with a 15.3-6.7-2.3 nightly statline to go along with 1.0 blocks and 1.6 steals. The Hawks are also witnessing the emergence of one of the more talented guards in the league in Jeff Teague. The 16.9 points, 8.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds Teague is averaging this season are all career highs. All three of these players have PERs above 18.8, which is fantastic.
Atlanta as a team is currently 3rd in the league in assists per game, which is a testament to the selfless nature of its players and the passing ability of its big men. This has been a big reason why the team has been successful thus far in the season
An even bigger factor in the team’s current high standing is how weak the Eastern Conference is, as we predicted would be the case earlier in the season. Outside of the top two teams in the East- Indiana and Miami, which have a combined 26-4 record- the conference has been struggling immensely. 11 of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference currently have losing records and 6 already have double-digit loss counts. By comparison only 4 Western Conference teams currently have losing records, and outside of the Utah Jazz no team has amassed double-digit losses thus far in the season. If Atlanta switched conferences it would currently be sitting in 11th place. Suffice it to say the Hawks are fortunate to be in the Eastern Conference.
One concerning stat for the Hawks this season has been its point differential, which is the most accurate indicator of a team’s true performance. On the season Atlanta’s per game point differential is -0.6. They are the only team amongst the top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference to have a negative point differential. While this stat isn’t overly alarming, it is telling of Atlanta’s true production, which is far from stellar.
Atlanta is also currently 28th in the NBA in rebounding despite shoring up its frontcourt this offseason. The Horford-Millsap tandem is lethal offensively, but the fact that they are so ineffective on the glass is certainly worrisome.
Because of these numbers I am not overly optimistic about the Hawks this season. I believe they will finish the season with a 42-40 record and a 5th place seed in the East. It won’t be a bad season by any means, especially considering the team’s bright future with an awesome nucleus of Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague, but expectations should be tempered a bit.