The Atlanta Hawks backed their way into their playoffs and took the number 1 seed Indiana Pacers to seven games. They were without their best player in Al Horford but Jeff Teague and All-Star Paul Millsap played well enough to pull off the upset. The injury to Horford crippled the team as they won only 38 games.
Before Horford went down in December the Hawks were the 3rd seed with a record of 16-13. The Hawks stumbled without their leader. The worst part of the season came in February when they lost 13 of 14. Somehow they still managed to make the playoffs and shocked a few people in the process.
Jeff Teague might be the most underrated guard in this league. This is a point guard dominated league and there are some great ones out there. A name often left of the list of top point guards in Jeff Teague. Teague quietly had his best season but played his best basketball in the 1st round of the playoffs. Pacers guard George Hill could not slow Teague down and the Pacers were forced to put Paul George on him. Teague averaged 19 ppg, 5 apg and shot 33% from long distance in that series.
Paul Millsap is another player that has been under the radar. After finally leaving Utah Millsap became an All-Star. He expanded his game by adding a three point shot. He knocked down a career high 76 threes while shooting 35%. He was still a solid rebounder grabbing 8.5 rpg and averaged a career high 17.9 ppg.
The Hawks grabbed Michigan State forward Adreian Payne in the draft. Payne is big man who can play inside and out. He gives them depth and youth in the middle just in case Horford gets hurt again. Last year they were forced to play Elton Brand extended minutes. The Hawks like to spread the floor and Payne should be able to contribute immediately.
In the off-season they traded away Lou Williams and added Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore. Sefolosha brings perimeter defense and playoff experience. Bazemore is a wildcard; he is a good athlete but has not found his role on the court yet.
With a healthy Al Horford the Hawks will be a much better team than last year. Teague’s confidence is growing and he will be more of a leader. Millsap and Horford can be a dynamic duo in the paint because their games complement each other. Although the East is better, the Hawks are better with Horford and will win 45-48 games with a healthy team.