The Hawks Are Soaring
Is anyone paying attention to the Atlanta Hawks? Doesn’t seem like it if you follow daily discussions in forums or twitter. This Hawks team is positioning itself to have home court for the first two rounds of the playoffs. This might be the best team the Hawks have put together since the mid 90’s teams with Lenny Wilkens. This will be the 8th consecutive season the Hawks have made the post-season.
Why is no one talking about the Hawks? It is probably because, to most, this isn’t a championship caliber roster.
They’re 22-8 and sit in the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They have the 11th most efficient offense and 7th most efficient defense in the league. They truly only have two bad losses, against Cleveland and Milwaukee. They lost by thirty or more in both of those games. Two of their remaining 6 losses were tough battles with the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors.
What makes the Hawks a dangerous team, in my eyes, is how their success is coming from a team effort. It sound cliché but it’s true with this team. They have five guys in double figure scoring each night along with a bench that has stepped up when needed.
What is interesting with this team is it’s not that any player is posting career numbers. In fact, most of the players are below their career high in terms of points per game, rebounds per game or assists per game. Most starters, led by Paul Millsap and Al Horford are taking fewer shots and playing less minutes.
I am not saying that the Hawks are a title contender. I am not saying that they can not win the title either. I am rather curious as to how serious other teams are going to be taking the Hawks seriously this season and in the post season.
The net stretch of games will be a true understanding of where the Hawks stand amongst the league best. They have Cleveland, Portland, LA Clippers and Memphis over the next five games.
The Relationship of Rondo and the Mavericks
Many have been wondering, “How is Rondo doing in Dallas?” Well, I am glad they asked.
Individually, Rondo is enjoying his time down in Dallas. Obviously it is early but Rondo has seen improvement in scoring, steals and my favorite category in this case, fouls. I would rather see players obtaining 4-5 fouls a game instead of the famous Lebron donut. (PS, my theory doesn’t apply to Lebron as most theories do not apply to Lebron).
I would rather see a player pick up fouls, usually on the defensive side of the ball because it means you are trying harder. Rondo was averaging 1.9 fouls per game and is not up to 4.0. His minutes jumped 1.2 per game, so we know that is not a factor. Rondo is motivated and playing hard, which provides us the best Rondo possible. We all know the big games he displays on national television for all. Now with this Mavericks team, who will have to fight for seeding and play meaningful games, expect to get more effort from Rondo.
The other aspect of Rondo enjoying his time is the team and coach asking for more aggressive, especially in shooting. “Coach has been telling me to be aggressive,” Rondo said. “I haven’t been scoring as much in the past in Boston, but here he told me to be a little bit more aggressive.” (via ESPN). This is something that will help Rondo back into the discussion of best point guard in the league.
From the team’s perspective, they are still trying to gel as a roster, especially with Rondo. Dallas has three new faces in their starting line up: Chandler Parsons, returning face Tyson Chandler and now Rajon Rondo. They will have their downfalls, like losing back to back to the Hawks and suns but in the long run, they should continue to improve.
As I mentioned on twitter the other day after the second Mavericks loss with Rondo, I wouldn’t worry about it to much. The Mavericks will make the playoffs and will be thrilled to have a big game player like Rajon Rondo.
Trade Talks Are Fun
We already had one All-Star traded and it’s not even January. The Rondo trade was surprising to some and shocking to most. Many believe Danny would move Rondo for the right deal but this trade came out of nowhere and was executed quickly.
Then we had the surprise news that Detroit Pistons gave up trying to trade Josh Smith. So they waived him. He cleared waivers and signed with the Houston Rockets. Another situation of a good player (yes, Josh Smith can still be a good player) on a bad team going to play in meaningful games come May.
So what happens next? Who is being targeted? What teams need to fill voids?
Some of the rumors that are floating around include names like Deron Williams (Nets), Lance Stephenson (Hornets), Jeff Green (Celtics), Greg Monroe (Pistons), and a few other names that have been whispered. I should point out that some of these names have been “removed” from trade talks but everybody knows that is PR lingo.
The teams that will be looking for help down the stretch is every Western Conference team fighting for playoff position. Each of those teams will be looking to fill small gaps on their benches or if players get injured. In the East, we know Cleveland is looking for a rim protector (good luck) and the Celtics are now blowing up their roster after the Rondo trade. It’s also probably fair to say Detroit is blowing up theirs as well. These are the teams I would keep an eye on as the deadline nears.