Why The Hawks Will Be Dangerous In The Play-in Tournament

Trae Young #11 reacts with Clint Capela #15 of the Atlanta Hawks during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at State Farm Arena on March 25, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Last season, the Atlanta Hawks were one of the surprise teams in the NBA.

They finished 41-31, good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and after a convincing 4-1 series victory over the New York Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs, they stunned some observers by defeating Joel Embiid and the heavily favored Philadelphia 76ers in the semifinals, winning Game 5 and Game 7 in Philly.

This year, the Hawks haven’t been nearly as successful, and they will have to begin the postseason by participating in the play-in tournament.

Still, no one in the East should underestimate Atlanta.

The Hawks Have Had Some Success Against The Top Teams In The East

Atlanta has been up and down all season, but they have been competitive against the teams most consider to be championship contenders.

This regular season, the Hawks have taken two of three games against the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, the team that ended their impressive run by defeating them in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Atlanta has also won one of three games against both the Sixers and Miami Heat while taking two of four contests versus the Boston Celtics, one of the league’s hottest teams of late.

More importantly, against the two toughest teams they could face in the play-in tournament, the Hawks have done fairly well.

Atlanta is 3-1 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, and although they have gone just 1-2 against the eighth-seeded Brooklyn Nets, they did beat them just last Saturday, 122-115.

In that contest, the Hawks held Nets star Kyrie Irving to a dismal 12-of-32 shooting performance, and although he had 31 points, it was a very inefficient 31 points.

Two nights before that, Atlanta blew out Cleveland 131-107 as Cavs standout Darius Garland shot just 7-of-21 from the field.

The Hawks Are Very Efficient Offensively

One of Atlanta’s greatest strengths is in overall offensive accuracy.

They currently rank second in the NBA in offensive rating, sixth in points per game, and second in 3-point shooting percentage.

The Hawks are also a team that doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, commiting the fewest turnovers in the league.

That makes it tough for opponents to fast-break on them and go on big, game-changing runs against them.

Even better, Atlanta is fourth in free throw percentage and 10th in free throw attempts.

The team doesn’t get much press as an offensive juggernaut, but it is about as capable of big games on that end of the floor as any other squad in the NBA.

The Big Elephant In The Room

But perhaps the biggest reason the Hawks will be dangerous once the “second season” begins is Trae Young.

In his fourth season in the pros, he has put together his finest season yet, averaging 28.2 points and 9.7 assists per game.

Young has also improved his efficiency and is hitting a career-best 38.3 percent of his 3-pointers.

He has compiled 10 games of at least 40 points this season so far, including a 56-point, 14-assist masterclass versus the Portland Trail Blazers in early January.

If Young goes off against the Nets or Cavs during the play-in tournament, it could be lights out for either squad.

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