The situation behind the scenes for the Atlanta Hawks reeks. Travis Schlenk has decided to step down, and it’s been reported that Nick Ressler’s (the owner’s son) opinion is being valued highly when it comes to basketball decisions. For perspective, Nick and I are both 27-years-old and have about the same amount of experience running an NBA franchise. If these reports are accurate, there is no avoiding eventual disaster.
That said, on the court, the Hawks have finally started to find some rhythm. They recorded their fourth straight win last night in an offensive masterpiece on the road against the Mavericks. It’s the longest win streak of the Hawks’ season, as they now sit a game above .500 with a chance to gain some ground on the Knicks Friday night at State Farm Arena. If Trae Young and company can come out of that one with another win, the talk surrounding this team will have a much different tone leading up to the trade deadline
The Hawks are only going to go as far as their health takes them. You can say that about a lot of teams, but it’s especially true in Atlanta. They lack the necessary depth to absorb injuries, and it’s why they’ve struggled so much when players are missing. However, when the core pieces of this team are healthy — like they were for the first time last night — this is a dangerous basketball team. I have no doubt that the Hawks will make a run over the second half of this season if all of their guys stay healthy, but if even one of their top-eight players misses significant time, they will likely continue to play around .500 basketball. Adding some depth at the deadline will be critical if the Hawks want to compete.
They’ve been Here Before
Let’s not forget that arguably the best Hawks team since the organization moved to Atlanta was in this same spot just a couple of seasons ago. They were a below .500 team, fired Lloyd Pierce, hired Nate McMillan, and the rest was history. The Hawks won 27 of their final 38 games, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference before beating the Knicks and 76ers to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, where they gave the eventual NBA Champions all they could handle. Had Trae Young not gotten hurt, who knows what would have happened in that series against the Bucks. Some might say the Hawks must undergo another coaching change to realize their full potential, but I’m not so sure that’s the issue. McMillan and this team have been in this exact position before, and they have what it takes to turn the ship around.
A Wide Open NBA Landscape
There are a lot of very good teams across the NBA. The talent level has never been higher, but all of the talent is spread out. There are no super-teams or juggernauts that can’t be beaten on any given night; it’s fairly even across the board. The Hawks have plenty of star power, and their chemistry should only improve as they continue to get used to each other. If they can make a run in the second half of the season and earn a top-four seed in the East, who knows what could happen. Are the Hawks going to win a championship? Highly doubtful, but it’s not as impossible as it is most years. With Trae Young and Dejounte Murray in the fold, the team needs to go all-in and give it their best shot.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire