The Atlanta Hawks are the best team in the East and it hasn’t even been close. They’ve been running the tables on teams from beginning to end and are quickly turning into the Eastern Conference version of the San Antonio Spurs. Quick, fluid ball movement with every person on that roster playing for each has turned this team into a championship contender. Stellar play is all around the team. The starting five of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are all averaging double-digit points as well as making other contributions out on the floor.
With the All-Star game quickly approaching, conversations always arise about who deserves to get in and who doesn’t deserve an All-Star Game appearance. Atlanta is an interesting case when it comes to the ASG. No one player is dominating games for Atlanta. The Hawks beat down teams by playing team basketball without relying on a single player to take over a game. Numbers say so, too, as seven different Atlanta Hawks players have led their team in scoring so far this season. That’s a remarkable number but it ultimately hurts the Hawks players when it comes to the ASG.
The last updated All-Star ballot was released on January 8, and only two Hawks players were in the voting race (Horford and Millsap, 15th and 13th respectively). Even with the best record, these two Hawks can’t even crack the top-10. Someone who is in the top-10, Kevin Love (5th), has made his case for an ASG appearance, and it is clear that he receives voter bias playing alongside LeBron James. Love is averaging a double-double (17-10) compared to Horford’s 15-6 but a couple of things stand out when it comes to their performances throughout the season. First, Horford is shooting 11% from the field better than Love (54.1% to 43%). He is also blocking 1.4 shots per game compared to Love’s 0.5 blocks. Millsap isn’t that far behind either, averaging 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.7 steals while shooting 48% from the field and 34.2% from three.
We don’t have to look at the stat sheet to know that Atlanta has been playing better basketball. Horford and Millsap have looked like silent killers on the court. At times, Love has looked stagnant and the defense has certainly not been present. The spotlight has undoubtedly been on teams other than Atlanta, but can we take a second to look at who else is ahead of Horford and Millsap in ASG voting? Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two players on the tail end of their careers are ahead of two players who are the stars on the best team in the East. Should there be a call to change All-Star voting?
The case can be made for both of these players to be higher up on the list as well as two players on the roster that aren’t even ranked in the All-Star voting at all, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. Yes, the guard position has evolved in the NBA where athletic basketball players dominate the point- and shooting-guard position. Just take a look at all the notable guards in the league: John Wall, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Derrick Rose to name a couple, and that’s just the Eastern Conference.
It is an absolute sham that Lou Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo are ahead of Teague and Korver in voting. Nothing against Williams and Antetokounmpo, but Teague and Korver have easily outplayed both of these players while contributing to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
There should be no hesitation when saying, “Teague has been playing like one of the best guards in the East.” Korver has been in a world of his own too, on pace of having a historic season. Korver is currently averaging at least 50% from the field and 3-PT% while shooting over 90% from the line. He’s on pace to have a 50-50-90 season, something that hasn’t been done since current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
So what’s the deal? Everything seems to be in place for Atlanta to have multiple All-Stars. Well, they have one All-Star already, as Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer will be coaching the East All-Stars. There is more than one reason for why the Hawks can’t even crack the top-10 in ASG voting but the biggest reason has to be because of their team success.
Atlanta currently has a 34-8 record while winning their last 14 games. Their style of play is very similar to the San Antonio Spurs where everybody looks to move the ball, taking smart shots, and clamping down on defense. It makes sense when Budenholzer comes from the coaching lineage of Gregg Popovich, As of January 22, Atlanta is 2nd in the following statistical categories: 3-PT%, assists, and plus/minus. The team that is ahead of them in all three categories is the Golden State Warriors. Atlanta also leads the league in points allowed, giving up 96.1 points per game.
Rarely do we see success as a bad thing, but in this case success hurts Atlanta’s ASG chances. Tonight at 7:00 PM on TNT, the final voting results and starters will be announced. Obviously the ASG chances for any of these players is higher now that Budenholzer is the coach for the East All-Stars but nothing is guaranteed.
There’s only one basketball to go around in a game and players who typically dominate the ball receive all the attention and spotlight. Look at players like Wall, Wade, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, and Carmelo Anthony. All these players have been getting majority of touches and have been one of the leaders of scoring for their teams. They also happen to be the projected starters for the ASG.
Atlanta’s success through team basketball hurts the chances for the ASG for Teague, Korver, Millsap, and Horford, but it’s never always about individual accolades right? It’s all about the Larry O’Brien trophy that every team wants to hoist at then end of the season. For now, this is just another step towards earning respect and a reputation as a threat to seriously contend for a championship.