The horn sounds. It’s over. The Atlanta Hawks 99, the Cleveland Cavaliers 100. The Cavs have just swept the Hawks in four games – AGAIN. Last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks lost because of being out rebounded. This year in the Conference Semifinals, they lost because they couldn’t stop the Cavs from shooting three-pointers. They set a NBA game record for 25 three-pointers, and a grand total of 77 out of 152 for the series. That’s an astounding 50.7% shooting from behind the arc. The record for the most three-pointers in a series is 79, set by the Hawks in a seven-game series verse the Indiana Pacers two seasons ago. Let that sink in for a moment. The Cavs missed the record by 3 three-pointers, while playing three fewer games. If this was Sesame Street, this article would be brought to you today by the letter L and the number 3.
Let’s quickly digress to the Hawks last regular season game verse the Washington Wizards. If they win they are the three (there is that number again) seed, if not they are the fourth. When Hawks President and Coach Mike Budenholzer was asked about the importance of avoiding the Cavs in the second round of the playoffs by obtaining a three seed, he said, “Not very important. We just want to be playing well and be healthy. You are going to have to win. You are going to have to beat good teams in the East. Who we match up with, who we play, at home, on the road, I think we just want to be playing well and be healthy.” That third seed was very important! This would have meant playing the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the playoffs, which they handled easily this season. The second round would have been against a Toronto Raptors team that is great in the regular season but lacks confidence to make it past the second round of the playoffs. Ultimately the Hawks would have been playing the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals again. Everyone knows this is a stars’ league, and the chances of beating the Cavs were slim to none. However, winning a game or two would have been all that was necessary to show improvement. Instead, Coach Bud made this statement: “Losing to Cleveland twice is tough. But to the fan base, to people who think (about making major changes), if we want to find a way to beat, whether it be Cleveland or whoever the great teams in the league or our conference are, blowing it up is probably not the way to beat a team like Cleveland.” Really?!
Albert Einstein once said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” To think that this Hawks core team can make it to a NBA Finals is insane. The team is presently constructed to be very good in the regular season and the first round of the playoffs – that’s it. Al Horford and Kent Bazemore are free agents. It’s safe to say that they will both test the market to see what their value is worth. Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver have one more year left on their contracts. In the final quarter of the last game, Teague played a total of zero minutes. Korver is 35 years old and struggled shooting his infamous three-pointers this season. This is not good for either of them returning next season. The only other starter is Paul Millsap. He seems to be the only “safe” player to return next season, even though he has one more year left on his contract.
What will the Hawks do? Will they blow up the team and go after players like Kevin Durant and/or DeMar DeRozan? Will they do a sign and trade to get Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol? Could they attract a center like Andre Drummond or Hassan Whiteside? How much convincing would it take to get Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal to come to Atlanta? Or will they keep the core together and hope to draft a superstar with the 21st pick in the draft? This last option is insane, but that’s just my three cents.