People are beginning to take notice: the Atlanta Hawks are for real.
The 37-8 Hawks have a 6.5 game lead in the Eastern Conference, and are beginning to be known as the San Antonio Spurs of the East. After all, head coach Mike Budenholzer once worked for the Spurs under Greg Popovich.
The Hawks have currently won 16 in a row. Here’s what you need to know about these streaking Hawks:
The emergence of Jeff Teague
The 26-year-old Teague has turned in a career-best start to his season. Already, the point guard is averaging career-highs in assists per game (7.5) and in his assist-to-turnover rate (2.85).
Teague boasts a player efficiency rating of 22.8 this season, the 12th-best mark in the NBA. In his previous five seasons, Teague averaged a 15.1 efficiency rating before improving to 17.1 in 2013-14, his first season under Budenholzer.
It would be a shame if Teague did not earn his first All-Star Game selection.
Front court figuring it out
This year, Budenholzer has taken advantage of Millsap’s versatility to set up center Al Horford with more shot opportunities. Horford is shooting 65.4 percent from the field from the restricted zone, which is 10 percent better than the NBA average. This season, Horford has taken almost 45 percent of his shots from that area.
Bringing the D
Defense has been a major reason for the Hawks’ recent surge. Atlanta has limited its opponents to a league-best mark in points points per game (96.1). Five times during their 16-game win streak they’ve held their opponents to fewer than 90 points in a game.
Over the past 11 games, opponents are averaging 91.8 points per game, which includes victories over the Clippers, Grizzlies, Thunder, Wizard, Raptors, and Bulls.
Historically fast start
The Hawks are only the fifth team in the last 20 seasons to notch wins in at least 37 of their first 45 games to start the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And the craziness doesn’t end there.
In that unbeaten stretch, the Hawks have had double-digit leads in every game. They’ve lost only two games in their past 32 contests. The team’s win Friday against Oklahoma City broke the franchise’s previous win streak of 14.
Korver in line for NBA record?
Sharp-shooting Kyle Korver has made his mark in the NBA as a 3-point specialist, but at 33 years of age he may be in the line for not only his best career year, but a season for the ages.
In his past two seasons in Atlanta, Korver has seen an uptick in his production. And he is currently on pace to notch the NBA’s first 50-50-90 shooting season.
A 50-50-90 season would entail that a player shot 50 percent from the field and from beyond the arc, and 90 percent from the free-throw stripe.
Numerous players have reached the 50-40-90 pinnacle. Among them: Steve Nash in 2007-08; Jason Kapono in 2006-07; and Kiki Vandeweghe in 1987-88. Steve Kerr has been cited as the only other player to reach the 50-50-90 mark, but didn’t reach the minimum requirements for field goals and free throws.
Not only is this season historically significant for the Hawks, but potentially Korver as well.