Sunday 27th May 2018,
The Hoop Doctors

Josh Smith and Atlanta Hawks Are Not NBA Title Contenders

A large part of me wants to believe in the Atlanta Hawks. Heck, looking at their 9-5 record, a large part of me is telling I should believe in them. But I don’t.

Though Atlanta is fresh off a six game winning streak, it may have been one of the least indicative winning streaks in NBA history. Don’t get me wrong, rattling off six straight wins is extremely impressive and anything but easy, yet at the same time, the Hawks’ recent streak doesn’t scream contender.

Two of those wins came against a Charlotte Bobcats team that has come crashing back down to earth, another came against the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic, another against the chaotic Sacramento Kings and a fifth versus the one-win Washington Wizards. Let’s also not forget that they’re winning streak ended in underwhelming fashion to the Cleveland Cavaliers as well.

I’ll be one of the first to admit that the Hawks recent victory over the Los Angeles Clippers was extremely impressive. They throttled a clearly superior opponent at home to keep their winning streak at the time alive. There’s plenty of respect to be found in that. But there’s also plenty to be found in the cosmetic makeup of this team.

Atlanta is currently scoring just 96.2 points per contest, 19th-most in the league, and its fourth-to-last in rebounds per game, grabbing an underwhelming 39.4 a night. Obviously the Hawks’ sixth-ranked defense counteracts this to a certain degree, but not to the point where they’re legitimate contenders.

Bear in mind that just two of the Hawks’ nine victories have come against opponents with winning records; they’re 2-4 overall in that department.

Understandably, victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Clippers are cause for excitement. After shipping Joe Johnson off to the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta’s chances at making the playoffs were relatively unknown. But the Hawks have taken doubt out of the equation and proved that they’re a genuine playoff team, courtesy of victories such as those and their ability to win most of the games they’re expected to.

But a contender? No, not yet. A victory against a superior team like the Thunder—which came without Josh Smith—is certainly a testament to how deep this team can appear, but it’s also a prime example of how the “Any Given Sunday” methodology applies to the NBA (though in the league’s case it’s more like “Any Given Day that Ends in ‘Y’).

Yes, Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Smith are electrifying, but they’re not enough. And sure, Lou Williams and Kyle Korver are solid glue guys, but they’re also not enough. This team just isn’t enough.

No scorer on the Hawks is averaging more than 16.1 points per game, and they have just three players who average more than five rebounds per game. They have a shaky home record at 5-3 and don’t stand a chance against a team like the Miami Heat in a seven game series.

Is this meant to belittle their current efforts? No, not at all. We just have to understand that Atlanta is one star short—or one breakout performer short—of becoming a legitimate title contender. The Hawks’ gritty style of basketball is admirable and it will most certainly carry them through to the postseason, but they’re limited star-power isn’t going to get the job done in the age of super teams.

Which ultimately puts title contention well out of reach for what truly is a slightly above-average Hawks team.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at in addition to Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.


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