Dec. 26, 2014 was a night unlike any other this season for the Atlanta Hawks. In front of a sold-out crowd at Philips Arena, NBA journeyman and current Milwaukee Bucks guard Jared Dudley went a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in the Bucks’ 107-77 blowout win.

While it was shocking enough that this loss came at the tail end of a string of victories against top-tier teams, including the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, the fallout from that defeat has been even more surprising.

The Hawks have won all 16 of their games since the loss to the Bucks and are currently No. 1 in the NBA’s power rankings. Aside from that night, the Hawks have had a sparkling start to the season. Why is it, then, that they are still the Rodney Dangerfield of the league? Why is it that they get no respect?

Let us take a look at the numbers. Kyle Korver is shooting an astronomical 53.1 percent from three — a percentage that is actually higher than his combined field goal percentage. Jeff Teague is putting up 17.1 points per game while maintaining an efficient 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are nearly identical to one another down low and just as solid, contributing a combined 32.2 points and 14.6 rebounds a night.

Moreover, exceptional role players surround this four-man core. Kent Bazemore,Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll all provide threatening floor spacing with their long range shots, while Thabo Sefolosha and Dennis Schroder provide competent substitutes on both ends of the court. As a result, the Hawks rank fifth in the NBA at offensive efficiency, second in the NBA at average margin of victory and first in the NBA when it comes to defense, holding their opponents to 96.6 points per game.

Keeping this in mind, it is perplexing that they do not get a proper level of representation. I believe All-Star selections and jersey sales are most indicative of a franchise’s popularity. The NBA hosts an All-Star game every February, in which the Eastern and Western Conferences are represented by five starting players who are voted in by fans through social media, while the reserves for each side are determined by votes from each conference’s respective coaches.

Despite their collective success, it seems unlikely that the Hawks will have any representation this year, aside from their coaches who will coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team. If we go by the opinion of the fans, there are not any Hawks players in the top 10 of either the guard or frontcourt category.

Granted, the coaches’ vote is supposed to be the great equalizer, the preventer of snubs, but most of those players end up being an afterthought. For instance, Millsap was selected last year, but only ended up playing benchwarmer’s minutes, garnering little attention for either his reputation or that of his organization.

It goes without saying that the Hawks have had similarly little success in marketing their brand.
Jersey sales for the team are pitiful. Not surprisingly, the Hawks also rank in the bottom 10 of all NBA teams for average game attendance. Did I mention that they were allotted a grand total of four nationally televised games this season? Regardless of their regular season success, the Hawks seem doomed to be considered the underdogs, even in the Eastern Conference, to make a title run.

Is this disregard actually indicative of the validity of the Hawks’ success so far? As a team that thrives off of the three-point line, averaging nearly 25 shots per game, they will have to keep up their defensive effort to withstand times of famine from behind the arc in May and July.

While their lack of star power provides them with flexibility in terms of injury, it also limits their ability to truly counter an opponent of that caliber. If LeBron James or Stephen Curry, the top leaders in the All-Star balloting, put up a vintage, unstoppable performance in the playoffs, the best the Hawks could individually muster would be a three-point barrage from Korver. Perfect execution has gotten the Hawks this far, but they will need the discipline to maintain it if they hope to reap the benefits in the postseason.

Max Fiege is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. OUT OF OUR LEAGUE appears every Tuesday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *