If the Atlanta Hawks make the playoffs, they'll have a few people to thank.
At 31-40, the Hawks are clinging to the No. 8 spot in the dreadful Eastern Conference, just two games ahead of New York and 3.5 ahead of Cleveland.
For what it's worth, Danny Ferry—Atlanta's general manager—isn't satisfied with just making the playoffs:
That's certainly what you want to hear from the GM if you're a Hawks fan, but they aren't likely to believe anything until they see it.
The Hawks have been a staple in the Eastern Conference postseason bracket for years, but they've never been expected to go far.
A series against either of those teams isn't likely to last beyond four games.
Their struggles this season have had a lot to do with injuries, which have plagued them all season:
The loss of Al Horford, who went down earlier this season with a torn pectoral muscle, was the biggest blow.
On the injury sustained by Horford, Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver said:
This injury is a big blow for the Hawks, who are currently the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed with an 18-14 record. ...
Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game this season, and he was a strong candidate to make the 2014 All-Star Game, which would have been the third selection of his career. At the time of his injury, Horford was Atlanta’s leading scorer and rebounder.
Atlanta was on its way to a better-than-expected season before Horford went down.
If he and Millsap are able to stay healthy in 2014-15, the Hawks should be a lock to improve upon their Eastern Conference standing.
So while the Hawks may not be contending next year, they should at the very least help Ferry make good on his goal of not finishing eighth.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.
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