With the NBA playoffs almost among us, each of the 16 teams who will eventually make up the postseason will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA champions. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.
Why They Can Win It All
Putting this in the most polite way possible, the Atlanta Hawks can’t win it all, and even they know this. They have made the playoffs by virtue of being the least-bad team in a group including themselves, the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, there is no reason why they can’t have some success against whichever opponent they get in round 1. They are the 12th-best field goal shooting team in the league (45.7 percent), which is better than other playoff hopefuls such as the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers. In Paul Millsap this team has an All-Star and a brute inside the paint. Kyle Korver‘s exploits from beyond the 3-point line have been well documented, but beyond streaks this guy can flat out shoot the ball. A mix of Millsap’s inside game, Korver’s outside touch and the underrated point guard play of Jeff Teague means this team won’t simply go away. Korver connected on .472 of his 3-point efforts, an encouraging number for this team. Thirty-one-year-old rookie center Pero Antic himself shoots .331 from beyond the arc, and has been a nice pickup for this team, especially with Al Horford out for the season through injury. Although Louis Williams really hasn’t been the same since his ACL injury, he too can shoot the ball from many areas of the floor. His 10.4 points game are a welcome boost for the offense.
This team has no real focal point on the offensive end, but unlike other teams, this is no bad thing for this team. In fact, they have the second-highest assist average in the league (24.8) and share the ball really well. Yes, Millsap is their focal point, and his career high 17.9 points this season show he is getting it done on that end. But it is not all about him when attacking, and that has worked for this team. With the outside threat from Korver among others, there are a couple of ways this team can hurt you. Other than that, there has probably never been a better time all season to play the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, and they will need that mentality if they have any hopes of making it out of the first round.
Why They Might Exit Early
Look, this is an average team, especially with Horford now out of the picture. Millsap is a star in the sense that he does a lot of heavy lifting and dirty work, but he’s still a rung below true superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. There is little depth here either, with names like Dennis Schroder and DeMarre Carroll rounding out the roster. Basically there is not enough firepower or help from the bench to get this team anywhere. On top of that, this team is the 28th-best rebounding team in the league. Sure the Heat are worse, but as we’ve just mentioned they’ve also got superstars to help tilt the balance of a game in their favor. Other teams would kill this team inside the paint. Opponents shoot 40.6 percent from between five and nine feet away from the basket, cutting right into the heart of the Hawks and scoring points a lot of the time.
Taking care of the ball is an issue as well, the Hawks coughing up the ball 15.4 times a game, good for fourth-most in the league. Any hope this team has of being competitive has to start with them taking care of the ball more. You could argue that the high assist total this team has may also feed into the high turnover rate. After all, the ball doesn’t really stick with one player and instead is pinged around the court trying to find it’s way to the open man. Turnovers will happen as a result, and that is just something Atlanta will have to live with given the style of basketball they play.
Jeff Teague. Not an elite point guard, but by no means an also-ran at the position either. The guy is crafty, and knows how to get at opponents and harm them. In his fifth year, his 16.6 points are a career high, and his 6.8 assists are not bad either. Teague does a lot for this team but doesn’t always get massive credit for it, considering he has to go toe to toe with better guards on a near nightly basis. He is .848 from the free throw line. His 1.1 steals and career-high 2.6 rebounds show that he also puts the effort in on the defensive end where he can as well as he tries to do everything he can for this team.
How They’ll Do
The Hawks are going home in round 1, and everybody knows it. They have been an under-the-radar team for the whole season, and with good reason too. In fact, whichever team they face in round 1, be it the Pacers or Heat, could actually use victory over this team to get their groove back. They are the most straightforward opponent to deal with in the Eastern Conference, so expect them to be swept as well.