The Hawks are off to a franchise best start at 34-8 and are currently on a 13-game winning streak with six games to go on the current homestand. The HawksHoop staff takes a stab at assessing just how good the Hawks are.
1) Who has been the most surprising player on the Hawks so far?
Bo Churney: I have to say Jeff Teague. He’s being more efficient on offense and just looks more comfortable in Mike Budenholzer’s offensive system. He’s seventh in assists per game, 10th in steals per game, 11th in PER, and eighth in win shares per 48 minutes. He is really being a great player on offense, plus he is actually giving an effort on defense, which has made a big difference for the Hawks. He could legitimately be an MVP candidate if he keeps this up.
Chris Barnewall: It’s probably Kyle Korver. We’ve always known he can shoot, and run off screens, that’s what he does and he’s really good at it. I don’t think anybody expected him to have the potential to be the first 50/50/90 player EVER. Reggie Miller didn’t do it, Ray Allen couldn’t do it, and Steph Curry was always the player we thought could do it first. Instead that might be Korver and that’s pretty surprising.
Nubyjas Wilborn: Kyle Korver’s improvement has been amazing to watch. He’s become such a super efficient player. Korver spreads the floor and allows the Hawks offense to create even when he is not shooting. If he goes 50-50-90, it’ll be one of the top shooting seasons in NBA history. He’s become way more than a role player shooter.
2) How far can the Hawks take this win streak?
Churney: I think they will win tonight against the Pacers to tie the franchise record of 14 wins in a row. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be in Atlanta on Friday and they will be super determined to win with their current situation in the Western Conference standings. It has been an amazing run, but I think the streak ends with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Barnewall: Every streak has to come to an end at some point, and there’s a few Western Conference teams coming up that have the potential to end it. Friday’s game against Oklahoma City is a possible loss, then on the 30th there’s another tough game against Portland. The game that I’m currently circling though is February 6th against the Golden State Warriors. While I think Atlanta trips up before them, I’d love a streaking Hawks team taking on the best team in the West.
Wilborn: They will beat the Pacers on Wednesday and lose to the Thunder; they literally do everything well from a basketball perspective when they are healthy. I’ve watched the Hawks all my life and this the most fun I’ve had. Even Jon Barry — who the Hawks cut on Christmas — is finally speaking well about them after years of hating from the broadcast booth.
3) The Hawks have said they feel like they still have a lot to improve on and that they haven’t “peaked” yet. Do you agree? How far can they go in the playoffs?
Churney: The Hawks are 34-8, are a top 10 offense, and a top 10 defense. Playing that well on both ends and having a record that reflects that shows that the Hawks can be a team that can reach the Finals, even if they don’t have that “go-to” superstar that takes a lot of shots.
Barnewall: There’s always room to improve for every team in the NBA. What do the Hawks need to improve on? While the Hawks have a fantastic front line, it can struggle against some of the bigger and stronger big men out there. While the East isn’t filled with Dwight Howards and Marc Gasols, a healthy Bulls frontline of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol could give the Hawks some fits in a seven game series. If there’s anyway for the Hawks to improve, it will be finding a way to counter this weakness.
Wilborn: Vegas has the Hawks at 5:1 odds to win a championship and they don’t play about these things. Hawks are a viable option to win a title. They remind me of the 2004 Pistons. This is the type of team that breaks the mold of needing two or three Hall of Fame caliber players. There isn’t a team in the East the Hawks can’t beat in a series right now and once you’re in the Finals anything can happen.