The Atlanta Hawks went on what could be considered their most successful season the past 50 years. Atlanta rolled through the regular season and racked up the second best record in the NBA. In the postseason we saw Atlanta dismantle two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference before falling apart in the Conference Finals against the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the outcome was heartbreaking for the small market Atlanta fans, the overall season was one worthy of joy.
In fact, last season marked the final year with owner Bruce Levenson. Levenson took over the team back in 2002 when they were little better than a 25 win team. Over the years Levenson, along with scouting talent, molded the Hawks into a skilled team that was just on the verge of breaking through. The drafting of Al Horford in 2007 and then Jeff Teague a few years later would set the tone for what the Hawks would try to do going forward. Levenson’s work changed the Hawks for good and now the team will move forward without him.
What’s next for Atlanta?
After last season’s unceremonious ending the onus will be put squarely on Atlanta in the early going and their ability to get off to a hot start. The Hawks had to play at an incredible clip to win the 50+ games that they ended up racking up and that will be hard to duplicate, though coach Mike Budenholzer is up for the job.
The biggest issue for Atlanta, of course, will be in how the team reacts to the loss of Demarre Carroll. Carroll was Atlanta’s small forward for the past couple of years and he added borderline elite defense with the ability to step out and shoot beyond the arc. In last year’s playoff run Carroll turned into one of the most important players on the court, routinely leading the team in minutes while adding in 15 – 20 points per game. Carroll will be patched up with a motley of players like Tim Hardaway Jr and Kent Bazemore.
While Atlanta tries to get around the loss of Carroll we will also see center Al Horford under intense scrutiny. Horford all but vanished in the elimination game of the ECF while posting single digit points and rebounds before ultimately being consigned to the bench. The play of Horford was embarrassing as you could consider him their star player and the face of the franchise. Horford will have to intensely train this off season in order to come out strong and hungry.
Still, there is reason for optimism in Atlanta. Teague and Horford are a great guard – center combo and the Hawks are as deep as they’ve ever been.