Behind enemy lines: Atlanta Hawks

Behind enemy lines: Atlanta Hawks
August 7, 2014, 10:30 am
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This is a series to look at how the Wizards stack up against their opponents in the East, where they finished 44-38 last season for a No. 5 playoff seed and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Today:

Atlanta Hawks

2013-14 finish: 38-44, 4th in Southeast Division; 8th in the Eastern Conference; lost to the Indiana Pacers 4-3 in the first round of the playoffs.

Season series vs. Wizards: Wizards won 3-1 in the regular season. 

Key losses: SF Cartier Martin

Key additions: SF Thabo Sefolosha, SG Kent Bazemore, PF Adriean Payne, SF Lamar Patterson 

[MORE: Wizards find Cassell replacement]

Outlook: Credit the Hawks for nearly stunning the top-seeded Pacers last season despite a shorthanded roster. Simply getting back a healthy Al Horford, who missed most of last season due to a pectoral injury, will put them into the top-4 seed mix after they snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed. Of course, they were stuck in that 4-5 range for several seasons with no realistic hope of toppling the primary contenders. New additions Sefolosha and Bazemore are energy wings and nice supporting pieces, but the big transaction never took place even though Atlanta cleared cap space by shipping Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueria to Toronto for John Salmons' waivable contract. Then again, coach Mike Budenholzer impressed in his first season; Horford returns; point guard Jeff Teague improved significantly last season; and Atlanta had two players in Team USA's training camp, power forward Paul Millsap and 3-point dynamo Kyle Korver, who remains in play for a roster spot. At least the Hawks shouldn't be fighting just to reach the postseason. By the way, even though Washington took the season series last year, Atlanta had won 18 of 20 dating back to March 2008. The head-to-head battles this coming campaign could be the difference in what looks like a 3-4 team race for the Southeast Division title. If the new supporting pieces enhance the already established leading men, Atlanta could be the team to beat.