The Atlanta Hawks had a season to remember in 2014 – 15 as they broke a franchise record for wins and made it past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nearly 60 years. Owner Bruce Levenson was the man behind the big glass mirror as the owner of the team, enjoying the fruits of his more than 13 year labor. The Hawks were bought in 2002 by Leveson when they were at the bottom of the NBA ladder. Purgatory years when Jordan ruled occurred before Levenson and then the Lakers and Celtics dynasties occurred afterward. What we saw this past year was the symbol of years of waiting and hard work. Now Levenson is stepping aside, having sold the team to a group led by Antony Ressler and Grant Hill.
What is next for Atlanta?
The Hawks stand tall in the Eastern Conference thanks to a collection of factors. For one thing, there is a ton of continuity within the Atlanta organization despite any change in ownership up stairs. Head Coach Mike Budenholzer is back on the bench and he’ll continue to run rings around opposing team defenses with his elite offensive scheme. As far as players go we saw the Hawks make it a priority to bring back star power forward Paul Millsap despite having to let swingman Demarre Carroll go in the process. Kyle Korver was lost in the postseason to an injury and he’ll be back in the line up as well.
The biggest challenge that the Hawks will face in terms of repeating last years success comes down to the progression of their opponents. The Eastern Conference in the NBA is typically laughed at when compared to the West, where the majority of the best teams in the league preside. However, this past off season we saw more than a couple Eastern Conference squads beef up their roster in anticipation of deeper runs than normal this coming year. Here’s the primary competition that Atlanta will be facing:
Cleveland Cavaliers – With the return of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving from injury, Cleveland instantly flies to the top of Vegas’s odds for a championship out of the Eastern Conference. A renewed LeBron James and a deeper roster give Cavs fans hope.
Miami Heat – The Heat amped up their roster simply by getting hurt players back. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade rejoin the starting 5 while Amare Stoudemire, Gerald Green, and Justise Winslow got added for bench depth. Hassan Whiteside has another year to turn into a stud defensive big man, as well.
Chicago Bulls – Fred Holberg steps into Chicago to turn the Bulls into an offensive juggernaut. Jimmy Butler is looking to make another huge step as he grows in his career and Derrick Rose finally looks healthy. Rack ’em up.