The 2015 Atlanta Hawks won 60 games in the regular season and made it to the eastern conference finals. The team hasn’t reached those heights since and only made it back to the Eastern Conference Finals once since 2015. Let’s take a look back at this team that had four all-stars but no superstars but made it to the Eastern Conference Finals
In the 2014-15 NBA season, there was one team that was atop of the Eastern Conference standings, yet didn’t have a single “superstar”. That team was the Atlanta Hawks. The common narrative around that league was that the Hawks were playing team ball in a sport where superstars flourished.
The Hawks didn’t have anyone who averaged more than 17 points per game. They were led by Paul Millsap. He led the team with 16 points per game on 47 percent shooting. He was the first option on offense. At the time, I considered him to be the Hawks’ best player. Millsap was named an All-Star that year. He was not given All-NBA honors that year. While he played great that year, he did not it deserve over Tim Duncan or Blake Griffin (who was the third team all-NBA players that year).
The Atlanta Hawks had such a well-balanced team in that season
Horford was his big man partner in the front court and he was also an All-Star that year. Again, despite attaining this mid-season honor, he wasn’t anywhere close to getting an All-NBA nod. Horford averaged 15 points per game on 53 percent shooting.
On the wing, the Hawks started DeMarre Caroll. He was a solid wing defender. He didn’t really have an offensive game but he was a solid three-point shooter. Kyle Korver started at the shooting guard and was lights out from three. He wasn’t the greatest defender but he was an amazing 3-point shooter and that led him to be an All-Star that year.
Jeff Teague controlled the offense for the Hawks. Teague was an all-star that year and was very good at controlling the offense. He was quite the scorer. He scored 15 points per game on 46 percent shooting from the floor.
The six-man for the team was Dennis Schroder. He controlled the second unit and would sometimes fill in for Teague with the first-team offense. He was seen as more explosive than the starting point guard but Teague was more experienced than Schroder was.
The rest of the major players off the bench were Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha, and Mike Scott. Bazemore was a nice shooter, Sefolosha was a good defender and Mike Scott was a nice backup big. The Hawks were led by Mike Budenhozler.
It was his system that Atlanta won 60 games that season and had the first seed in the East. This is why he has been named as one of the best coaches in the modern era.. They had a first-round matchup with the eight-seeded Nets. After splitting the first four games, the Hawks took the next two and moved on to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
They again took care of the Wizards in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. While the Wizards did win Game 1, they did lose John Wall for games 2,3, and 4 of the series with a wrist injury that was clearly impacting him while playing in games 5 and 6. This time after losing game 1, the Hawks rebounded in game 2 behind a solid 22 points from Carroll.
They would go on to lose game 3 of that series behind a buzzer-beater by Paul Pierce. The Hawks needed a stellar performance from Jeff Teague to keep themselves from going down a 3-1 series lead in game 4. Teague had 26 points in game 4.
Game 5 was a defensive battle. The Hawks won it, 82-81. Horford led the way with 23 points. Game 5 was a close victory for the Hawks where three players scored 20+. The Hawks were set to face the Cleveland Cavs who were led by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
The Hawks couldn’t contain James all series as he went for 30+ in three of the four games. It seemed like Carroll was the perfect defender to contain James, but he was not. The Hawks lost in four games. While this team proved that you can’t really win without a superstar in the NBA, it did show that you could get so far that you have to be eliminated by the second (or best depending on how you view) player of all time in his prime.
The 2015 Hawks may not have ended up winning the title but they sure did play to their highest potential and took a team with no superstars to the Eastern Conference finals.