The purpose of this activity is to highlight a team that may not get much of the national spotlight. I’m here to highlight a team that doesn’t even get much of the local spotlight. The last few months I have been living in Atlanta, a city that loves the Braves and Falcons with a passion and probably couldn’t name the basketball team’s head coach (to their credit, I’m not sure how to pronounce it). Even as the team became embroiled in a race related scandal, nobody here in Atlanta really seemed to care.
Which is really a shame, because the Hawks have quietly put together a solid foundation that should provide regular entertainment on your League Pass guide. Danny Ferry, despite his inexcusable blunder that came to light over the summer, has brought with him to Atlanta the same basketball philosophy that is employed in San Antonio, Ferry’s former employer. In charge of implementing that on-court philosophy is Coach Mike Budenholzer, a man who spent over 15 years on the bench next to Gregg Popovich and is well versed on The System the Spurs have used to lay waste to the NBA since the Clinton administration.
It is that system that makes the Hawks a team to flip on during a packed night of basketball this season. Last season, Atlanta took 25.8 three pointers a game, a rate that was second in the NBA only to the Rockets. While the Hawks only hit 36.3% of those attempts, at the volume they are launching them Atlanta can never be counted out of a game. With Kyle Korver leading the charge, Atlanta has plenty of floor spacers on the roster to force defenses into uncomfortable rotations and close-outs. DeMarre Carroll, Paul Milsap, Jeff Teague, and Pero Antic were all good for a triple a game, and rookie Adrien Payne could provide additional shooting to a frontcourt that already has plenty. Thabo Sefelosha, the team’s biggest free agent acquisition, looks to bounce back from a rough shooting campaign. After topping 40% from three in 2012 and 2013, the former Bull hit only 31% of his deep attempts last year. Hopefully under the tutelage of Coach Bud Thabo will see that percentage return to respectable heights.
From a pure League Pass entertainment standpoint, the Hawks have two key players that make every game worth tuning in to. The first is second year big man Pero Antic, the 32 year old Macedonian 7 footer who isn’t afraid to step outside (both to shoot and to settle disagreements). Antic also sports a beard that can be classified as “terrifying” and with the news that he broke his nose in practice last week, I’m willing to bet Pero is going to be looking Bane-esque in a facemask.
The other key component to Atlanta’s watchability is Kent Bazemore.
The Hawks will clearly benefit from the return of Al Horford from injury. In the 29 games the former Gator played last season, he averaged 18.6 points, 8.4 boards and 2.6 assists a game on 56.7% shooting. Horford can hurt teams in a variety of ways, and he’ll have the opportunity with defenses having to devote a fair amount of attention to his front court mate Paul Milsap. Milsap, one of the most well-rounded players in the NBA, led the Hawks in steals last season while also averaging just over a block a game.
The Hawks may never lead the league in attendance. They may never sell the most jerseys or t-shirts. They may never even crack the regular rotation of water cooler conversation in the office. But for a League Pass addict, Atlanta is a team to keep a close watch on. Like a hawk.