When a team finishes 6 games under .500 it’s often a sign that something needs to change. But for the Atlanta Hawks the wins and losses don’t tell the whole story. In fact, in a season so decimated by injury, that the Hawks were able to finish with that record and make the playoffs is a testament to what this team is capable of heading into next season.
After Al Horford’s season-ending shoulder injury on December 26th things really only got worse for the Hawks but prior to him going down the team was actually sitting at 3rd in the East. Every starter missed time during the season for a variety of ailments and the Hawks also ended up losing John Jenkins and Gustavo Ayon to season-ending injuries as well. Had the team been healthy it would be entirely fathomable that they would have made it into the second round of the playoffs and perhaps also have had a pretty good shot at making the Eastern Conference Finals.
So in many ways this season could be described as a fluke or anomaly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing; it’s just something that was far from expected. Plenty of good things were learned and realized though which will have good implications moving forward.
For the most part the starting five is under contract to return next year but it will be a roster that many have argued is ready to be blown up at any point. As it stands this team is pretty good but not great. Finishing 3rd and the Eastern Conference Finals seem to be the appropriate ceiling for what the Hawks are currently capable of. But this is not Danny Ferry’s goal so it will be interesting to see what moves he makes in the offseason.
A good case can be made for keeping the nominal starting five. Other players worth keeping around include Pero Antic, Mike Scott, and Shelvin Mack. Antic played a huge role for this team after they lost Al Horford. Having a center as a credible deep threat is pretty rare in the NBA and gave the Hawks a unique advantage
(just ask the Pacers). Mike Scott, the second year man out of Virginia, also saw great development from his increase in playing time. While his defense is lacking, he’s another threat from deep and a hot hand off the bench. He fits Coach Budenholzer’s offensive scheme well and is still on a rookie scale. The same goes for backup point-guard Shelvin Mack. Mack proved he’s a fully serviceable backup and helped to command the bench unit.
Coach Budenholzer should also be someone that this team will invest in for the long term. As a first year coach he was able to overcome some major obstacles and difficulties and coach the team to a very competitive first round exit. Not that there’s any reason for the team to get rid of him; he just deserves all the praise he can handle.