While I think, ultimately, this team will have a hard time keeping up without myriad responsibilities Al Horford brings every night, the two wins over Charlotte and Minnesota have the Hawks --- wait for it -- in first place in the Southeast division.
It's everything Bird Watchers talked about before the season; the continuity, the veteran bench --- all of it would play into the hands of the Hawks as they used familiarity to guide them to a fine regular season record and playoff berth, again.
The first of these is SBNation's own Tom Ziller, who wrote a thoughtful piece on the Hawks and answered questions about their playoff viability and chances of trading Josh Smith:
Will the Hawks still be in the playoff hunt?
It's very difficult to imagine the Hawks falling out of the playoff chase because of the seriously stratified nature of the East right now. After Atlanta's blowout win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday, the conference has seven teams above .500: the Bulls, Heat, Hawks, Magic, Sixers,Pacers and Knicks. You expect that, barring injury, the six teams other than Atlanta are playoff locks. Then the conference has four teams with two or fewer wins -- the Wizards, Nets, Bobcats and Pistons. There's no chance, outside of a major, major trade, those teams are making the postseason.
Ziller also nails the current state of Hawks roster affairs and other potential trade targets, so it's worth checking out the whole story.
Meanwhile, over at NBA.com, Sekou Smith uses his legendary familiarity with the hometeam to say -- just when you think the Hawks will zig, they zag -- so you can't count the Hawks out yet, even without Horford:
What the Hawks do have that can't be measured is the undeniable ability to defy all expectations and common sense. They've been doing it since Horford entered the league, backing into the playoffs during his rookie season and then pushing the eventual champion Celtics to seven games in a first-round series.
Every season since then, the Hawks were supposed to stumble and fall back to the pack or fall out of the playoffs completely ... and each time they've made a mockery of those predictions. Every metric, measurement and statistical analysis designed to study this team has been turned inside out.
For better or worse, the Hawks never follow the script.
Sekou and John Hollinger both panned this team before the season started because they were far too familiar with the team to put them correctly into context. Like a relationship with someone day after day, eventually you stop seeing their strengths and because obsessed with the faults. They've both come around, as predicted, because the team is sturdy, if not championship caliber. As Hawks fans, we can only hope that these types of positive forecasts continue for the rest of the season. So enjoy!