Two years removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, the Atlanta Hawks appeared to take a step back in 2021-22 despite boasting a better record than the previous season.
With the 2022-23 season ready to tip-off a little over a month away, the Hawks are determined to reclaim their seat at the table of elites in the East. With the over/under for wins sitting at 46.5, according to odds makers, the question is does this Atlanta Hawks team have the talent and durability to keep pace with the resurging squads in the conference?
One could speculate how the season would’ve played out if those additional ten games had been played two seasons ago but the fact remained that Atlanta seemed poised to put the league on notice with superstar Trae Young orchestrating the team’s offense. Although questions have risen about the team’s toughness and interior defense, the focus has definitely been the ability to light it up from beyond the arc. This team seems to live and die by the 3-pointer.
Looking over the schedule for the upcoming season, it’s a tough ask to think that the Hawks have done enough to overtake some of the top seeds in the East but, with the addition of All-Star Dejounte Murray, drafting wing AJ Griffin from Duke with the 16th overall pick and bringing in an assortment of veterans like Aaron and Justin Holiday, the Hawks have done enough to make sure the depth of the squad isn’t going to be an issue.
October finds the Hawks getting the season underway with three straight home games. The record at State Farm Arena (27-14) was a bright point last season so let’s be optimistic that they will be able to keep up that energy for the home crowd. On the flipside, Atlanta boasted a road record of 16-25 and the final four games of the month are away from the friendly confines of the Good Neighbor. With a two-game trip to Detroit and then stops in Milwaukee and Toronto, it’ll be a relief if they can get out of the short month breaking even.
If the Hawks escape the first month of the season one game above .500, that would be a blessing because the schedule really kicks into gear on November 7th.
The team faces a monstrous stretch prior to the Thanksgiving holiday as they host an upstart Pelicans team as well as another shot at the Bucks at home followed by a home-and-home against Joel Embiid and the Sixers – the first coming on the heels of a back-to-back with Utah and ending a four-game home stand – on the road in Milwaukee, hosting the Boston Celtics and the Raptors before closing out the month with two out of the six games being at home. Especially the matchup with Miami could have the Hawks seeing revenge for the early exit from the playoffs last year.
Wins against Cleveland, Sacramento, Houston and Orlando could end November on high note but the Hawks definitely could find themselves in position to rattle off one of their longest losing streaks of the season given the balance of the schedule during the first two weeks.
December seems to take it easy on the Hawks as a home matchup with the Dallas Mavericks and road games against the Nets and Grizzlies are on the schedule to kick the month off. The equal amount of road games to home games feels like that Hawks will escape the Holiday season with one of their highest win totals for the month but it still seems like they will break even at the end of it all.
By the time January rolls around and the teams are starting to calculate what their playoff chances will be, the Hawks face arguably one the toughest challenges of the season as 10 of the 15 games during the introduction to 2023 will be on the road.
Heading out to the West Coast, the Hawks will have four games starting in Golden State and ending with a double-dip at the Staples Center. The Hawks come back home to take on the Bucks before heading back out on the road to Indiana and Toronto. The month wraps up with the MLK Day game vs the Heat and then a road contest against the Mavericks – another huge hurdle to get over as the season begins to take its toll on the players.
Another West Coast road trip welcomes Atlanta to February, with Phoenix opening the month followed by a scary back-to-back with Utah and Denver. The rest of the month is manageable with games against the Knicks, Nets, Spurs and Washington with the All-Star Break mixed in there where guys will get some much needed rest after a tough couple of months. The start of the month could bring some disappointment but there is definitely room to recover.
The workload in March doesn’t seem to get any easier as a four-game road trip with two-and-two in Miami and Washington open up the month. Follow that up with home games against Boston, Minnesota and Golden State takes the team halfway through the schedule. Again, there are plenty of winnable spots here for the Hawks to try to make up some ground from January and February and with a lot of teams taking the foot off the gas and looking toward the 2024 season, there are plenty of victories to be had.
The five games left in April could be played to the Hawks advantage as teams like Dallas, Philly and Boston could be in the position to rest some players as the Hawks will more than likely still be fighting for a playoff spot.
With the new additions to the backcourt and the lingering questions about the toughness of the interior defense, given the team can stay healthy and the young players like AJ Griffin and Onyeka Okungwu progress to the next level, it still seems like a stretch that this Hawks team could reach 47 wins.
It seems like a more reasonable number for the over/under would be 41.5 which, in the East, is still good enough for a spot in the play-in tournament and I think we know that Trae Young and this team knows how to turn it on when their back is against the wall.