The Atlanta Hawks ended the season placed at number 5 on the ESPN Power Rankings and with the best record in the east.
Arguably one of the best Eastern Conference teams, they had the second best record in the league only falling short to the MVP‘s team. But yet, they struggle in the post-season. Is it even possible to win a title without a star player?
The Atlanta Hawks are not an individual led team. Sure, they have strong performances from Teague and Horford, but they are a team oriented ball club. To the extent that the NBA gave the starting five player of the month honors according to the NBA. “This is the first time in league history five teammates have shared the Monthly award.”
Yes, they all deserved it, but typically they give it to one guy. The Hawks team-first approach has worked throughout the season, but they struggled in all of the rounds so far. SB Nation writes, ” The ingredients for a good offense are there for the Hawks, it’s just a matter of it all coming together at the right time.”
A Look At History
The Detroit Pistons called “a rare breed” by Bleacher Report because the Pistons are one of the few teams in the last decades to win a title without a star.
In the aforementioned article EJ Tabuena wrote, “In an era where teams believe that the only way to win is to amass all the stars, most GMs either look at the 2004 Detroit Pistons as something to idolize or a pariah to this new line of thinking.”
They played together and yes sometimes their players had to reach “Star” level performance, but no one on that team was Lebron or a Kobe. They were the “Hawks”, and they proved that team ball can win championships. Sure you always need guys to deliver, but you aren’t looking to one person at the end of the game to finish it off.
The starting five Billups, Wallace times two, Hamilton, and Prince, none of these guys would be your preference to build a team around. None of these guys are worth trading first round picks and lowering salaries to create an ideal team. But somehow it happened.
Secondly, the 1999 Knicks. They fell short of winning a championship, but it was the first time a number 8 seed made it to the NBA Playoffs. They did have a star though Patrick Ewing. But things crumbled when the big man got injured, the “Knicks missed Ewing in the paint and were no match for San Antonio’s Twin Towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson,” according to NBA.com archives.
So, teams without a star have succeeded. Underdogs have made it all the way to the Professional Dance. So, what’s up with the Hawks?
An Offensive Struggle
The Hawks post season woes have definitely hit them hard, and to make things worse Kyle Korver is a wrap.
The Hawks team play and getting open shots was a success for them all year long, but they have just completely collapsed in the post-season. They now trail the Cavs 3-0, a seemingly insurmountable deficit. The Washington Post reported, “During the playoffs, Atlanta has been by far the least effective team, with an eFG% of only 34.6 percent.”
With that kind of low ranking efficiency, it is a miracle that they’ve made it this far, perhaps only courtesy of buzzer beaters and lucky wins.
Some say the fall of the Hawks is because of back-up point guard Dennis Schroeder. The guy’s production numbers have dropped and “Not only is Schroder being used more than any of his teammates, he owns the sixth-highest usage percentage in the playoffs overall,” according to rant sports. Having one guy take over may have been a post-season necessity, but that guy is not supposed to be Dennis Schroeder.
Up Against the King
Offense struggles, no star, and now you have to play against maybe the best player in the league? It’s something the Hawks just aren’t ready for. In the last game which the Hawks forced overtime, “James carried his Cavaliers with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists,” according to Bleacher Report. There was no Kevin love, no Kyrie Irving, just Lebron, and the man got it done.
Is Lebron proving there is no substitute for a superstar?
USA Today said, “The Atlanta Hawks fought as hard as they could, and it still wasn’t enough.” They don’t have it in the tank to beat a team with a superstar, maybe because there is no one to go toe-to-toe with James.
It may be possible to win big without a star player, but I don’t think it’s possible for the Hawks this time around.
[Photo: Bleacher Report]