Last year the Hawks jumped out of the gate very strong and never looked back. They won 60 games to post the top record in the conference and then made the Eastern final. Sounds good on the surface, but in real and significant ways the season had to be considered a failure. They were lucky to get past the Wizards in the second round of the playoffs - John Wall had a broken wrist after the first game, yet the series was still close. Once they survived that, though, they were completely humiliated by Cleveland. It was one of those sweeps that should only happen in the first round when a bad eight seed is outclassed by a top seed. It was a disgrace. So, the team enjoyed career years from several players and still wasn't nearly strong enough when it mattered. And now they are going with a largely similar roster that doesn't appear quite as good. Seems like a recipe for disappointment to me.
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2015 Atlanta Hawks Betting Story Lines
Paul Millsap was exceptional last year. He's 30, though, and he doesn't exactly play a style that's easy on his body. He's not going to fall off a cliff in terms of production, but it is certainly reasonable to believe he will not be quite the player he was last year. Kyle Korver is in a similar position, except he's 34 now and could fall even further. He's the thing - both players were less the year before last than they were last year by most statistical measures. To assume a progression instead of a regression at this point in their careers is naive. You could also argue that Jeff Teague or Al Horford aren't as likely to improve as they are to stay at the same level or regress. Add that all up and it's not much of a bet that they will maintain their level of play from last year in this season - and that doesn't even factor in the change in personnel.
It's easy to be negative, but there is one good reason to be positive. After 18 years as an assistant with the best-run team in the league - the Spurs - Mike Budenholzer showed how much he learned with a brilliant start with Atlanta. The first year was rocky, but the second year was incredible - and the improvement earned him Coach of the Year honors. There are plenty of reasons to doubt this team, but he isn't going to let the team slide completely backwards - he's too good for that.
2015 Atlanta Hawks Additions and Departures
The salary cap caught up the Hawks in the offseason. The success of the team meant that Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll both needed new deals, and the team couldn't pay them both what they wanted. They choose Millsap, and the Raptors thanked their lucky stars that they were able to land Carroll as a free agent. Carroll had emerged in the last two years as one of the premier wings in the league - an underappreciated gem. They will look to make up for Carroll with the defensive excellence and offensive ineptitude of Thabo Sefolosha and with new addition Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway has major offensive potential, but he has never met a shot he wouldn't take, and he is defensively incompetent. He has had trouble with consistency in New York, but no one could shine in the circus that that team was when he was with them. This is a more stable place with much better coaching and a better cast of characters. There is real upside, but it is far from certain that it will be realized.
The other key addition was Tiago Splitter, a center who spent three years together with Budenholzer in San Antonio. He will back up Al Horford and is an upgrade there. They also added Justin Holiday to the mix at shooting guard and Walter Tavares as a project at center. Adding players means losing others, and Pero Antic, Elton Brand and Austin Daye were the most notable departures beyond Carroll. None will be mourned in a major way.
2015 Atlanta Hawks Futures Odds and Trends
Atlanta was not only the best team in the East but the best betting team in the entire league - their 50-30-2 ATS mark made them wildly profitable for bettors. They only went "over" in 42 of 80 games, though, so the profits did not spreads to the totals.
Atlanta Hawks Futures Odds (from BetOnline)
NBA title odds : +3300
Eastern Conference title odds : +1400
Odds to win the Southeast Division: +175
2015 Atlanta Hawks Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
I don't believe in this team this year. They should fall to about 45 wins. That would put them in the mix with the Heat for the second spot in their division behind the Wizards. They are certainly a playoff team, and they could win a few more games than I expect, but they won't come within 10 of last year's win total.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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