In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
When examining why the Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs, this is the first thing that came to mind. It needs a little tweaking though.
In the conference of dumpster fires, somebody has to finish eighth.
That’s better. It’s a little harsh, but in many ways so was watching a lot of (L)Eastern conference basketball. That being said, much of the Hawks struggles this season had nothing to do with poor performance but just not having enough healthy bodies to put a competitive team on the floor. Losing Al Horford to a pectoral tear in December effectively set back any hopes the Hawks had of making a deep run in the playoffs. Combined with season injuries to Gustavo Ayon and John Jenkins, plus a variety of injuries taking starters like Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and Pero Antic for long stretches, it was an uphill battle at many points throughout the season.
That the Hawks made the playoffs in spite of such adversity makes such an underwhelming record actually quite impressive. It also says a lot about what this team is capable of when fully healthy. Paul Millsap played like and completely earned his first All-Star designation. Jeff Teague looked like an All-Star for long stretches as well when his ankle was not affecting his play. Pero Antic, the 31-year-old rookie, has also been a pleasant surprise, filling in at center for Al Horford and becoming a key cog in the rotation. Mike Scott has also been a nice development in his second season, providing instant offense and three point shooting off of the bench.
If Horford et al were healthy this would look like an entirely different scenario, with the Hawks likely finishing third in the East. As it stands they’ll likely be playing the Indiana Pacers in the first round and will meet a quick exit.
So while this is not the season nor the finish that the Hawks wanted(they won the eighth seed because somebody had to, not because anybody really wanted them to as a lottery pick will probably be worth more than a 4-1 beatdown in the first round), coach Mike Budenholzer deserves a lot of praise. He helped reshape this club into playing a 3 point bombing, team oriented style that has rightfully earned its 7th consecutive trip to the playoffs, the longest in the East.