Why the Atlanta Hawks Are Contenders

Garrett TuckerCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 18:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Miami Heat at Philips Arena on November 18, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Contender or pretender? That is the question that most of us fans are trying to decide this time of year in the NBA.

Right now is just the start of very good competition between the true contenders of the NBA, as they separate themselves from the rest of the teams that are pretending to be playoff teams.

Right now there is a different vibe throughout the city of Atlanta that has not been felt in a long time. No, it's not the frigid, uncharacteristic weather in the ATL, it happens to be the Hawks.

Despite the recent four-game losing streak, the Hawks are back to being the hot topic around Atlanta. Tonight's win over the Boston Celtics could only help the young Hawk team.

The game tonight is not the only reason I think that Mike Woodson's team can contend for a championship, but it showed some good things about the playoffs for us.

Yes, you can say the Celtics had no Kevin Garnett, but I don't think the results change much at all; especially the victory.

If you have ever heard me rave about the Hawks, you have heard two key words that I think go with the team: defense, and most of all, athleticism.

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To me, athleticism is the thing that we have the edge on the Cavaliers, Magic, and Celtics. None of those teams are as rounded as we are in my opinion. They have their players, but nothing like the Hawks do as a whole.

The Hawks defense really gave Boston problems tonight, as the final score shows, 93-85.

Most notably affected was Rajon Rondo. Every time the Celtics ran a pick-and-roll, the Hawks defense switched on the screen, putting a big man on the undersized Rondo.

Going back to the athleticism point, the big men (Josh Smith, Horford, Pachulia) all had the quickness to keep Rondo in front of them and they gave him fits. He was held to 11 points and 10 assists (Yes, I consider that held); I'd say whatever the Hawks did, it worked.

Yes, not every point guard is like Rajon Rondo, but this is a step in the right direction. What team is there that doesn't run a pick-and-roll? I can't name one. This defense has the potential to take the Hawks a long way into the playoffs.

It also doesn't hurt to have one of the best benches in the league, headed by the Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Jamal Crawford. I do admit, the Celtics do have a better bench, but they are two different types, both of which suit the teams.

The Celtics have their hallowed veterans, while the Hawks have the size and athletes needed to give the big role players a rest. Zaza Pachulia will bring energy to the game (just look back at last season's playoff series against the Celtics) and more and more competition.

And you can't say enough about Jamal Crawford. In my opinion, he has carried the Hawks a great portion of the season, and once Joe Johnson plays like he can, it will be one scary tandem with the two players. We'll see everything come together at the right time though.

We lack one more piece to our team, but I can't really put my finger on what or who. For some reason, Samuel Dalembert strikes into my head.

He gives us another big guy down low who can come off the bench and block shots. I think he would be a great addition to the team. But enough of trade talk, I will discuss that more as the trade deadline lurks.

The point is, the Atlanta Hawks can easily compete this season with not only the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but the NBA as well. I'm not guaranteeing any championship yet, but they could play a huge part in which team does win it all this season.

Without a doubt, this team is not playing with a phony mask on; they are for real. Watch out for the Hawks come playoff time.

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