Can the Hawks finally takeover the No. 1 spot in this week's NBA Power Rankings?
The Atlanta Hawks are synonymous with mediocrity no more. For years, the franchise reluctantly bore the NBA’s version of The Scarlett Letter, the dreaded “Good But Not Great” label.
There’s no worse place to be in the NBA than the middle. You’re not elite enough to contend for titles and you’re not bad enough to compete for top picks. Instead, you’re marooned somewhere in between, playing respectable basketball but going nowhere in the quest for Larry O’Brien trophies. The hamster wheel of meh.
No team is more familiar with that position than the Hawks. Atlanta has made the playoffs the last seven seasons but never reached a single conference finals. They won between 38 and 53 games in each regular season over that span, but never finished first in their division. The Hawks were always good -- but they were never great.
In order to break through that glass ceiling, Atlanta had to get rid of some of the people that were dragging it down. It waved goodbye to Josh Smith, traded Joe Johnson and cast off coaches who couldn’t bring them to the next level.
Now, and miraculously, the Hawks are the talk of the league. They’ve won 12 straight games and 26 of their last 28 while playing immaculate team basketball. They’ve picked apart the best teams in the league and they’ve dominated on both sides of the ball with stunning efficiency. They don’t have a single household name on the roster, but they’re better than all of the teams you are familiar with. If the season ended today, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis would all miss out on the postseason -- but the Hawks would be a No. 1 seed.
Golden State’s supreme play kept Atlanta from reaching the top the past two weeks, but the throne is finally theirs.
The Atlanta Hawks are the best team in basketball. They’re finally great.
Here’s where all 30 teams stand in this week’s NBA Power Rankings.
(Stats and records through Jan. 18).