Ladies and gentlemen, the last team with the best chance to win this year, the Atlanta Hawks.
Rather than defend why the Hawks got the nod over other contenders, let's stick with what gives Atlanta hope.
1. Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson represents a stud; his game is smooth and his demeanor likewise. He leads by example and proves critics wrong all the time. The Hawks' franchise invested in Johnson, climbed from the league's basement and became winners.
Johnson's name gets mentioned in terms of top free agents this summer, but it still seems like he doesn't always get the notoriety he rightfully deserves. The best part, Johnson doesn't let it phase him.
His game handles the talking. It's no fluke Johnson has averaged 22 points, five assists, four boards, and a steal over the last five seasons.
2. Jamal Crawford
Here's a guy who has scored 50 points for three different teams. Say what? Yes, Crawford, known for his electric handle and crossover dribble, has the uncanny ability to score with the best.
Last season, the New York Knicks shipped Crawford to the Golden State Warriors. A free-flowing, up-tempo offense seemed an ideal fit for the Seattle native. However, his relationship with coach Don Nelson didn't gel, and he was traded to Atlanta.
Now comfortably situated in the role as the Hawks' star reserve, Crawford's performance this season almost certainly has locked up Sixth Man of the Year honors.
The addition of Crawford brings new life and swagger to the team. His presence alone has impacted several games this season, including a season sweep of the Boston Celtics.
Each year when experts preview a playoff series, they list categories in which each team holds an advantage. One of those categories are the intangibles a team possesses.
Three intangibles come to mind when thinking of Atlanta: athleticism, attitude and youth.
This Hawks team has youth. Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague are four players under 25 and part of this team's present and future.
In comparison to other Eastern conference contenders, the Celtics and Magic have an average roster age of almost two years older than Atlanta. That span holds more importance that it would appear.
Age is catching up with some of the Celtics' veterans.
Athleticism never really was an issue for the Hawks. It was a matter of when will it be tamed and used in a productive manner.
Smith defines athleticism. His skill and ability makes him a nightly roto-wire monster. He does a little bit of everything for you and at an efficient rate. His deep ball isn't his forte, but he's realized that and focuses on better shot selection these days.
The attitude and mindset for the Hawks differs from the Cavs, Magic, or Celtics. The Hawks don't ever break the barrier in terms of title contention. They get mentioned as a tough playoff opponent, but no one expects much more.
In a way, it can benefit this team; no pressure sits on them, there's no monkey on their back. They just want to keep winning basketball games and have fun doing so.