Post-2014 All-Star Break Predictions for the Atlanta Hawks

Dan Schultz@DSchultz89Contributor IFebruary 17, 2014

Post-2014 All-Star Break Predictions for the Atlanta Hawks

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    With All-Star Weekend completed, and lone representative Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks getting a chance to get his feet wet in the big dance, the team adjusts their focus on what lies ahead.

    They are currently 25-26, placing them at fifth in the NBA Eastern Conference standings.

    Some slippage has definitely already occurred, due to the crippling season-ending injury of Al Horford and the continued less than stellar shooting from point guard Jeff Teague.

    The Hawks are an intriguing team, one that is definitely intent on remaining competitive and a franchise that has not shown any clear attempts to tank in order to get a good draft pick.

    Here are five post All-Star Break predictions for the Atlanta Hawks:

#1. Paul Millsap Will Average at Least 18 Points and 8 Rebounds a Game

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    Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

    It is no secret that power forward Paul Millsap is Atlanta's top dog.

    He is a newly minted All-Star with the aggressiveness in the post of a young Zach Randolph, combined with a deceptively lethal outside touch that would make Dirk Nowitzki smile.

    Millsap works extremely hard for everything he gets, and he will need to work even harder if the Hawks hope to contend for home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

    He averaged 17.1 points per game and 6.9 rebounds for the month of January, but he has bumped those numbers up to 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds during February.

    I predict that he will average at least 18/eight a game the rest of the way, to go along with a 45-percent clip from the field and 37 percent from the three-point line.

    He is no stranger to picking up some of the slack. He did it when he was with the Utah Jazz.

    It is his time to shine again.

#2. Jeff Teague Will Turn His Season Around

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Sometimes the massive weight of a new contract, attached with great expectations, can be a heavy burden.

    Jeff Teague has proven in the past to be a special player with huge potential, which is a big reason the Hawks decided to sign him to a four-year, $32-million contract extension.

    Perhaps it is part this, combined with trying to learn the system of rookie head coach Mike Budenholzer, that would explain his struggles this year.

    Whatever the reason, Teague is too talented to be mired in this slump for much longer.

    I predict that he will have a few phenomenal shooting nights from the three-point line, increasing his mark to at least 34 percent by season’s end, and will hike his scoring average to at least 19 points per game.

    It is a bold prediction, but the Hawks clearly have a lot of confidence in Teague, and I believe that he will rise to the occasion in the final 31 games.

#3. DeMarre Carroll Will Place Second in Voting for Most Improved Player

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    Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

    With more minutes comes more responsibility.

    Lance Stephenson is running away with this award, but I believe that Atlanta defensive specialist DeMarre Carroll will be fairly close in the voting.

    He has doubled his production in almost every statistical category, is shooting an impressive 47.4 percent from the field, and has turned himself into a three-point threat (36.8 percent) after being a non-factor from the perimeter during his first four years in the league.

    If he can take on more of the offense, something the Hawks need, and keep shooting at a consistent clip, he will be considered for this award.

    With his quick hands and terrific defensive instincts, Carroll has all the tools. He will keep improving and become a very important player for the Hawks in this final stretch of the season.

#4. Atlanta Will Finish Seeded 6th in the Eastern Conference

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    John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

    Granted, it is a far cry from the third seed the Hawks were destined to lock down with a healthy Horford, but given their injury issues, this is not a bad compromise.

    I do expect the Washington Wizards to pass them at some point, leaving the Hawks a hair above the Brooklyn Nets who seem content just to be in the playoff picture.

    To me, the Wizards have a ton of momentum and a lot of exciting, young players who seem to finally be jelling.

    The aging Nets, on the other hand, will probably keep getting hurt. It is safe to say that it has been a rough first season for head coach Jason Kidd.

    The Hawks are too good to fall completely out of the playoff picture, but it is obvious that they are scrambling to find answers for their lack of a center, which is forcing them to play small ball. The results have been a mixed bag, but they still will finish at a respectable position in their conference.

#5. Atlanta Will Upset the Toronto Raptors in Round 1, Before Falling to the Heat

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    I predict the Hawks will face the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.

    The Hawks have been to the playoffs the last six years, while the Raptors' attendance sheet for the postseason has been spotty, their last appearance coming in 2007-08.

    If the Raptors lock up home-court advantage, I believe it will be a classic case of a team happy just to be back in the playoffs.

    This is the perfect situation for the Hawks. They will pounce on their opponent and dismiss Toronto in a hard-fought, seven-game series in which Paul Millsap will dominate, putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds per game.

    You also can bet every commentator covering the Hawks playoff games will call Millsap "underrated."

    Ultimately, the Hawks will be too beaten and bruised from a grueling seven-game series when they enter Round 2.

    They will go up against the Miami Heat, and will win Game 3 at home in Atlanta. But ultimately the Hawks will fall short to a deep Heat squad that will dismiss them in five games.