Tag: Prospects

Atlanta Hawks Playoff Run

By Avner Belsky

ATLANTA — Everyone loves a good underdog story. They love seeing the unexpected suddenly happen right before their eyes. You are witnessing not only Atlanta history, but NBA history. The Atlanta Hawks, who just a year ago couldn’t even imagine making the playoffs, have made a strong postseason push that has landed them a coveted spot in the Eastern Conference finals.   

The Atlanta Hawks finished the regular season 41-31, which was good enough to guarantee them a spot in the playoffs as the 5th seed. Going into their first playoff series since 2015 they were already the underdogs and faced the fourth-seeded New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Hawks had no problem moving past New York, pulling off a 4-1 “Gentleman’s sweep.”  

In the next round, the Hawks faced Joel Emiid’s 76ers. Going into that series it was looking like the Hawks playoff “luck” had just about run out.

Hawks star Trae Young had something else to say about that.

Throughout that series, he averaged 29 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 10.9 assists.

More importantly, Young’s play led the Hawks to a series victory over Philadelphia and on to the Eastern Conference finals. 

“Trae’s scoring ability has put him in the national spotlight considering the platform of his achievements beating the New York Knicks in a hostile environment and the improbable upset of Philadelphia,” said Ronald Agers who covers the Hawks for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network along with being a SLAM magazine contributing writer.  

Agers added, “The leadership and overall play of Ice Trae leads directly to interim head coach Nate McMillan. Ever since he took over for the (fired) Lloyd Pierce, he attached accountability to Young that might not have been there his first couple of years. Trae looked like the second hand version of Stephen Curry shooting numerous 30 foot shots a game.”

Even with Young’s individual success, the Hawks have shown to be more than just a one-man show.   

Without Young in the lineup, the Hawks have still proven to be a formidable opponent. Young suffered a right ankle injury in Game 3 which kept him out of the lineup for Game 4. Atlanta responded with a series-tying victory despite not having their best player available. 

“The Hawks have been underdogs in both series so far and now are big underdogs (against) Milwaukee,” said Hawks co-owner Jesse Itzler. “That hasn’t bothered anyone so far and in fact, I think fires this team up. We have a lot to prove. I hope this team serves as an inspiration to underdogs all over the world.”

The city of Atlanta was demanding a change and better results.

That is exactly what happened, after the firing of Pierce. They promoted Hawks assistant Nate McMillan, a veteran NBA head coach, to interim head coach. Since becoming the Hawks’ interim head coach, Atlanta has a 27-11 record which ranks among the league’s best during that span.  

“(McMillan) has done a great job of letting players play and letting his leaders lead,” said Curtis Washington who played at Georgia State and now plays overseas. “He gives them the game plan and then lets them play their game without over coaching.”  

There is a lot to be said about that coaching style. The NBA has tons of coaches across the league trying to over coach and make up complicated game plans and plays. McMillan has found that perfect balance between structure and letting his players do what they do best and what they are paid to do – Win.

And they do this as a team which has become one of their strengths and a key to their unexpected success. 

“One thing you see in the Atlanta Hawks is the power of teamwork,” Itzler said. “This is a team that is unselfish and supportive of each other. When everyone is playing together rather than individually … amazing things can happen. Trae is a great example of that. It’s amazing what a team playing together can accomplish. You can never underestimate soul and heart. We play with both.”

(Also published in Boston University’s paper “The Terrier”)

NBA’s Top Two Prospects Zion Williams and R.J. Barrett are bringing up concerns

Zion Williams was the number one draft pick of the 2019 NBA draft.  Duke and everybody else said that he is going to tear up the league and be the number one player.  People said that Zion Williams is going to be the next Anthony Davis.  Zion Williams has not fully proven that he is ready for the NBA level.  He does not have great sportsmanship, in the 2019 NBA summer league he did no damage and was really no help to the Pelicans, and frankly, I don’t know if Zion can do well under pressure.  Another thing Zion has recurring injuries that happen frequently.  He got hurt a lot when he was at Duke.  For example when he was in college Zion rolled his ankle and was out for four weeks, another time when Zion was in college his shoe exploded and hurt himself and was out for almost a month, and in the 2019 NBA summer league the second half of his first game he collided knees with one of the Knicks players, the Knicks player got up and played the rest of the game and Zion had all of the team doctors on the court see if he was okay and now he is not playing the rest of the summer league.  If Zion got stung by a bee he would be out the whole season.  Zion Williams might be the next Anthony Davis or he could be another one of those overrated players that get left in the dust.  If it’s your turn in your next fantasy basketball draft and Zion comes around I would be very cautious, because he is going to get hurt a lot next season.  Keep all of this information on your radar.

R.J. Barrett was the third pick of the 2019 NBA draft.  A lot of articles and videos have come out saying should we be worried about R.J. Barrett?  I think just like Zion, this kid has just as much of a chance as being the next superstar as he does.  But R.J. Barrett this 2019 NBA summer league has been a wreck for him.  R.J. is 3-15 from the field and 1-8 from three-point range.  He also has four fouls and eight turnovers in two games.  As you can see I think R.J. is under a lot of pressure and stress.  Technically R.J. Barrett is the hope the new face of the Knicks and that is a lot of pressure to put on a kid straight out of college and still finding his way around the NBA.  Until the Knicks find a sustainable reliable veteran to keep the team going until R.J. Barrett is ready the Knicks are going to be a mess and R.J. Barrett is going to be a mess.  One of the Knicks scouts reported to the Knicks that they see R.J. as overconfident.  That can be a good thing and a bad thing.  It is a good thing because it gives you that extra push and mindset that you can do anything.  But in this case, it is a bad thing when you’re drafted by the worst team in the NBA and your the only player on that team that knows how to play basketball.  Later in this season when the Knicks record is so bad and R.J. feels lost all of that confidence goes away.  When the Knicks lose R.J. the Knicks will 100% lose the league.  So if R.J. comes up in your draft I would be a bit hesitant.

Now, this is an even bigger concern, if our top two prospects are completely failing that means the scouts are doing something wrong.  A lot of the scouts today go by we should draft the tallest and strongest guy, no you should never do that you want to draft the most talented guy.  Talent is not defined if your tall and strong, it can play a role.  It is defined by your vision for the court, fast decision making, and making big plays when your team needs them.  That is what scouts need to go by.