When the season started, many people outside Atlanta thought the Hawks would resort back to their previous form. After all, they were a losing team that snuck into the playoffs. They secured that playoff berth based more on the ineptitude of the Eastern Conference and less about their own performance. However, this year displayed just how far Atlanta has come.
The Hawks went from 37 wins in 2007-08 to 47 wins. This improvement should not be overlooked, especially when the coaches access each individual’s performance. Atlanta can now focus on building around a core of young players who have been successful during the regular season, as well as the postseason. Joe Johnson, Al Horford, and Josh Smith should be identified as the nucleus of this team, which puts them in position to grow next year.
Atlanta also went from the No. 8 seed to the No. 4 seed, enabling them to have home court in the first round of the playoffs. What makes this feat so impressive is the Hawks were not able to sneak up on anyone this year. After last year's performance, you had plenty of skeptics who believed the Hawks would not get back to the playoffs.
However, once the season began, it was obvious this team was for real. The competition was strong throughout the year, and it kept the Hawks sharp. There was a point when it appeared they would lose their grip on the fourth seed, but they continued to battle and were able to secure home court for the first round. They displayed perseverance, toughness, and the ability to stay focused throughout the NBA season.
Finally the season culminated with a trip to the second round of the NBA playoffs, a trip they had not made since the 1998-99 season. Although they were swept quite convincingly, there should be little doubt that better days are ahead for these Hawks. With each game in the playoffs, valuable experience is attained and with a young nucleus; the more experience they acquire, the better they will become.
This offseason is important for Atlanta. The consensus is they should try to re-sign Mike Bibby, however that would be a big mistake. This team is in desperate need of a veteran point guard, who has a pass-first, defense-second, and score-third mentality. With a free agency list that includes Andre Miller, Anthony Carter, and Jason Kidd, the Hawks can certainly secure this type of point guard. Although these three are long in the tooth, their veteran leadership and playoff experience would be invaluable for a team ready to make that jump from playoff contender to title contender.
The addition of one of these players would allow the Hawks to trade Acie Law, because despite what they may say publicly, there has to be some disappointment with his development.
Although the season did not end with the team fighting a better fight and establishing respect, the Hawks did take a major step toward a championship, and really, that is what Hawks fans should hope this team is building toward.