Friday, April 10, 2015

Why The Atlanta Hawks Will Not Win the NBA Championship in 2015

The Atlanta Hawks have been excellent this season.  Predicted to miss the playoffs, this team has set a team record for most wins in the regular season (59) and has a strong fan following as a result of the Hawks' gritty performance. It is a year to remember.  The Hawks value has gone up so much, the new ownership may have to pony up $1 billion to snag the team.  

As good as things have been, there are warning signs that suggest that this Hawks team will not get their NBA championship this year.  Thus far the team has displayed a delicate balance in which selfless teamwork and a carefully crafted rotation of starters and bench players has proven very effective. Anything that upsets that balance can be difficult to handle.  Here are some factors that will come into play as the Hawks wind down the regular season and prepare for the playoffs:  

1.  Major Distractions:  The Atlanta Hawks do not do well when distracted.  They started the 2014-2015 season poorly with a 5-5 record following the Danny Ferry scandal and suspension.

The weeklong All Star Game hoopla that surrounded the Hawks players receiving 4 bids to the All-Star Game resulted in a corresponding 3-4 record in and around the ASG break.

This week the arrests of Hawks players, Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic, during a New York nightclub incident in which NBA player Chris Copeland was stabbed are looming as a huge distraction as the regular season ends and the NBA playoffs begin.  The Atlanta players were arrested for disorderly conduct, obstruction, and resisting arrest in the early morning hours at a popular nightspot in Manhattan.        

2.  Injuries:  The mid-season loss of Sefolosha for 23 games contributed greatly to the mid-season February swoon that the Hawks experienced.  He came back in late March, but has now been lost for the season after he broke his leg in the late-night altercation mentioned above.     

Sefolosha is important to the Hawks' substitution patterns.  He has the highest defensive rating on the team.  His loss to the rotation will be felt throughout the playoffs, however long the Hawks remain in contention.  He was a huge contributor to the November through January win streak.

3.  Timing and Momentum:  The Hawks may have peaked too soon.  Their impressive 19 game winning streak ended in January. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games.    

4.  Cleveland Cavaliers:  Since January 15th (when their record was 19-20), the newly-crowned Central Division champion Cleveland Cavaliers are 32-7 and boast the league's best offense.  They have clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference.  With a cast of new players, it took the Cavaliers half of the season to find a rhythm and chemistry.  They have it now.  They have LeBron James.    

5.  San Antonio Spurs:  Following early season injuries and a championship "hangover", the defending NBA Champion Spurs are relatively healthy and have won 9 games in a row.  They are in contention for the #2 seed in the Western Conference.   They have Kawhi Leonard, the league's best defender.   

6.  Golden State Warriors:  The Warriors have the NBA's best record this year at 64-15.  They have a 36-2 record at home.  They have the Splash Brothers in the backcourt.

These disturbing trends do not look good for the Atlanta Hawks.  Let's hope I am wrong.