ESPN doesn’t believe the Hawks will take the next step

Nate McMillan

Earlier this week, ESPN’s NBA insiders came up with their predictions for the Eastern Conference. Here’s how they looked

  1. Brooklyn Nets (58-24)
  2. Milwaukee Bucks (57-25)
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (50-32)
  4. Miami Heat (49-33)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (47-35)
  6. Boston Celtics (45-37)
  7. New York Knicks (44-38)
  8. Hornets, Bulls, Pacers (40-42)

While I don’t believe this is the worst prediction for the Hawks we will see before the season — ESPN even put them in the contenders category — it’s clear they aren’t sold on all of Atlanta’s young pieces taking the next step. Essentially, they have the Hawks finishing with the same record as they had last year. The only difference is there were only 72 games last season.

Obviously, I disagree with them. As far as regular season teams go, the Hawks will hang with anybody record-wise. Under Nate McMillan, they went 27-11 to end the season. That’s a nearly 60-win pace, and they were dealing with a laundry list of injuries. With a little better luck in the health department, this team will easily eclipse 47 wins, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them lock up one of the top seeds in the East.

Without tremendous strides from some of the young core like De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and others, the Hawks ceiling remains the same. They aren’t quite at the elite level as some of the other teams like the Brooklyn Nets, so a championship is unlikely unless there is a plague of injuries like there was last season. With that being said, as far as the regular season goes, the Hawks are built to win a ton of games because of their depth. They should have better energy on a nightly basis than their opponents and are built to withstand the occasional injury that is bound to happen over an 82-game season. Unless Trae Young gets injured, pencil the Hawks as a top-four seed in the East.

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