Last year, the Hawks proved that they are a top 5 or higher team in the NBA. Winning 60 games, they posted the second best record in the league, only behind the Warriors. They proved to the world that a team doesn’t need any superstars to be dominant in the NBA; however, they are yet to prove that a team of their build can win a championship. Getting swept by the Cavaliers in the conference finals, many people where left questioning the Hawks ability to perform in apprehensive situations. Below are areas where the Hawks should improve in order to patch the holes and make the leap to compete for a championship.
Bring in postseason experienced veterans:
Last season, the players with the most postseason appearances on the roster where Thabo Sefolosha (6) and Al Horford (7). Sefolosha was the only player with championship experience on the team, and he wasnt available for action due to a broken fibula. In recent memory, every single past-champion has had one or two NBA veterans who may not have played that much, but made significant impacts for their team. Whether it was Sam Cassell calling out instructions to Paul Pierce from the bench in 2008, Shane Battier containing Kevin Durant in 2011, or Ray Allen hitting one of the most iconic game-tying shots in NBA finals history, experienced veterans have always played a big role. They give out a calming vibe, always execute the correct play, and teach the younger players. The best part about acquiring a veteran is that they are extremely cheap. Many players out of their prime are willing to take in a smaller salary in order to be part of a championship run. Reggie Evans, Willie Green, and Nazr Mohammed are just a few free agent candidates for experienced NBA vets who can still make impacts. Many can be acquired through small trades, and all can help bring the Hawks closer to a championship.
Utilize the bench during crunch time:
The Hawks seemed to consistently stick with their starting 5 during the clutch moments of games, as most teams would. This is fine, but with the underused talent on the bench, perhaps they should have made a few substitutions. With a hopefully healthy Thabo Sefolosha, hopefully they will put him in late-game situations to guard major offensive threats. The Hawks where so helpless defending LeBron James last postseason that they resorted to having Paul Millsap pick him up at half court, which did not end well. Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dennis Schroder and Tiago Splitter can also be put in during late game situations to have a game-changing impact. Kent Bazemore provides the energy we need off the bench, Schroder can calm the offensive tempo, and Splitter can grab boards in the clutch while providing a big body in the paint. Check out Kent’s impact against the Cavs in game 1 of the Conference Finals
Develop Walter Tavares:
On July 9th, the Hawks signed Walter Tavares to a multi-year deal. This might turn out to be one of the biggest low-risk high-reward deal any NBA team has made this summer. The 7’3 23-year-old can produce immediately; but, given time to develop, he could turn into something special. He will not be like Shaq or Dwight Howard. However, if he develops under the right conditions, he can provide a role similar to the one of Dikembe Mutombo. Tavares should be able to grab rebounds left and right, shut down the paint, and give energy. If the Hawks had a player with that arsenal of skills, it would have been a different story when they took on the Cavaliers. It is even better that the Hawks have him locked up for 3+ years.