The Atlanta Hawks were one of the headline acts of the 2020/21 season in their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The unheralded Hawks stunned a number of their prestigious rivals to surge one series away from a place in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1958. Former head coach Mike Budenholzer and the Milwaukee Bucks stood in their path, and although they put forward a spirited performance, the Bucks advanced to the Finals where they won the NBA crown.
Despite the setback, there was belief that the Hawks had found a winning formula on the court built around the foundation of Trae Young and his excellence. However, Atlanta have fallen back down to earth in the 2021/22 season and people betting on the NBA games will have noticed a drop-off in their results and display. Their odds in the basketball tips are now at +2000 to win the Eastern Conference. The franchise have lost their cohesion on the court that was so effective in driving them past the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs last term.
Time is on the side of Nate McMillan to rectify their issues, especially this season more than any other where there appears to be parity between the Eastern Conference. There are no truly formidable outfits that are unbeatable, despite the prowess of the Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets’ potent line-up. All 15 teams have their strengths, but also have weaknesses that can be exposed.
Trae Young's last 5 games:— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 12, 2021
33 PTS, 10 AST
25 PTS, 10 AST
25 PTS, 15 AST
29 PTS, 11 AST
31 PTS, 10 AST
He joins Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan as the only players with 25p/10a in 5 straight games since the NBA merger (1977).
(h/t @statmuse) pic.twitter.com/ZIpQTWh0yy
Importantly for the Hawks, Young has been operating at the peak of his powers. Once more he has excelled in the final third averaging 26.5 points per game, while the 23-year-old has improved his statistics elsewhere regarding his rebounds and assists. He seems to be everywhere on the court for the Hawks this term. It is a great sign about his work ethic and consistency, but Atlanta will want the support that was evident around the point guard last term to return.
John Collins has been solid in the final third, although he has not produced at the levels of the 2019/20 campaign yet. The 24-year-old has settled into a role behind Young, but to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond, he needs to raise the level of his game in terms of points and assists even if defensive ability has improved. Clint Capela was a force defensively for the Hawks last season, averaging 9.6 defensive rebounds per game. The 27-year-old was also efficient on offense, notching 15.2 points per game, the second highest mark of his career. However, Capela has taken a step back this term, which even he has admitted. The former Houston Rockets center is more than capable of rising to the occasion and producing his best when it matters the most.
McMillan has a talented young core at his disposal, including Kevin Huerter as an additional threat with the experience provided by Lou Williams and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Although the Hawks have had a slow start to the campaign, they have not become a poor outfit overnight. The Eastern Conference is wide open once more, and there is no reason why Atlanta cannot continue to be a thorn in the side of their more prestigious opponents.