Could the Bucks beat Atlanta in a playoff series? -Picture via news.yahoo.comContinuing our series of scoping out the Eastern Conference playoffs to see how the Bucks match-up with each team, today’s team: The Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks took the season series with Atlanta (2-1), with both their wins coming in overtime. The Hawks are a weird match-up for the Bucks, their best player Paul Millsap is in theory a good matchup for Giannis, but he was able to torch the Bucks for an average of 21.3 PPG.
The Hawks Line-up
G Jeff Teague 6’2″
G Kent Bazemore 6’5″
F Kyle Korver 6’7″
F Paul Millsap 6’8″
F Al Horford 6’10”
Hawks Strengths and Weaknesses
The Hawks play a team first style of play, but their calling card is their defense they finished 2nd in defensive rating. Their size and athleticism enables them to switch a lot of pick and rolls. Since Coach Budenholzer came to Atlanta the Hawks have been a much better team stylistically, this is not the 60 win team from a year ago, but they are still talented up and down the roster. Their conservative and controlled style of play wears down on teams and their outside shooting forces match-up problems for most defenses.
The Hawks biggest weakness is their lack of a true superstar, but Paul Millsap is very close to that. He is a very cerebral player and has the athleticism to blow by most 4s with terrific touch to finish around the rim. Paul Millsap led the Hawks in Points, Rebounds, Blocks, and Steals this year showing the type of all around player he can be. He is the type of guy the Bucks would have to watch out for in a potential matchup.
Another major weakness for the Hawks is their rebounding, they get killed on the boards due to their small front line. They ranked 30th in the league in offensive rebounds and were 27th in offensive rebounds against. They brought in Tiago Splitter to help with these issues, but a season ending hip injury kept him from ever truly getting going for them.
As I alluded to earlier their team play is something every playoff team should strive for, they ranked second in the league in assists per game. The lack of a true alpha scorer helps here, because everyone is willing to pass. Both of their front court players are good passers which is essential for a swing oriented team. Paul Millsap and Al Horford finished 3rd and 4th respectively on the Hawks in assists per game.
The Hawks also thrive at creating turnovers, they were second in the league in steals per game and third in blocks per game. Al Horford’s impact should not be understated either, he would be a very tough matchup for Greg Monroe, because of his ability to knock down jumpshots. Horford entered the season with 21 made threes, he made 88 this season. As the league shifts towards small ball, we might see more and more late career shooting renaissances from traditional post players.
Matchup to Watch
Giannis Antetokounmpo VS Paul Millsap
It is tough to say how much time these guys would spend matched up together, but it would be a beauty every minute they were. Millsap is markedly older than Antetokounmpo and would definitely take him to school at times, conversely Millsap rarely guards a primary ball handler. Giannis has seen his game evolve so much and his athletic gifts could propel him to a win in this match up. If Giannis continues to progress NBA fans will treasure their opportunities to see him matchup with other all-stars.
The Hawks have a fairly old core with both Millsap and Horford reaching the ends of their primes. Korver turned 35 this year and both their PGs will become free agents in the summer of 2017. Horford and Bazemore can become free agents this summer and leave the Hawks if they so choose. A quick turn around is always possible, but I’d be shocked if the Hawks were still a top 4 seed type of team in two years.