2013 was an eventful year for the Atlanta Hawks filled with pleny of ups and downs. We saw the Atlanta careers of Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia and Larry Drew come to an end while Danny Ferry took hold in shaping this team for the future. Injuries and a six-game playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers were low points but an intriguing offseason and a belief in Ferry and new head coach Mike Budenholzer are reasons for optimism.
Below is my attempt at assembling the Top 10 storylines surrounding the Atlanta Hawks for 2013.
10. Hawks fall in six games to the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 NBA Playoffs
Atlanta made the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season with a 44-38 record and faced the 3rd seeded Indiana Pacers who went 49-32. The Pacers took Game 1 and 2 in Indiana but the Hawks held serve at home taking Games 3 and 4 at Philips Arena. Indiana took a 3-2 lead in the series with a win in Game 5 and closed the Hawks out at Philips Arena in Game 6.
9. Steve Holman reaches 2,000 consecutive games milestone
Legendary Hawks broadcaster Steve Holman reached a milestone when he called his 2,000th consecutive game in a Hawks win over the Brooklyn Nets on January 16, 2013. The streak is now up to 2,082 consecutive games and thankfully there are no signs of it ending anytime soon.
8. Hawks select Lucas Nogueira, Dennis Schröder in 2013 NBA Draft
Atlanta went for potential in the 2013 NBA draft selecting Lucas Nogueira and Dennis Schröder with a pair of first-round picks and Bucknell standout Mike Muscala in the second round. All three took part in the Vegas Summer League where Schröder drew rave reviews.
The Hawks opted not to sign Nogueira or Muscala for the 2013 season and both headed to Spain to play in the Liga Endesa. Muscala has played well and is leading the Liga Endesa in rebounding as a rookie. Nogueira has suffered through an injury filled campaign and recently left Estudiantes to seek treatment on his knees which was later diagnosed as a severe case of tendinitis.
Schröder opened the season as the backup point guard behind Jeff Teague. He received a one-game suspension from the NBA for a low blow he delivered to DeMarcus Cousins in a win over the Kings. He struggled after returning from suspension and eventually lost his spot in the rotation to Shelvin Mack. Schröder has spent a little time in the D-League and appears to be working his way back into some playing time of late.
7. Zaza Pachulia signs with the Milwaukee Bucks
Fan favorite Zaza Pachulia's eight-year stint with the Atlanta Hawks ended over the summer when he agreed to a three-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks worth $16 million. Pachulia joined former head coach Larry Drew in Milwaukee. It was a good deal for Pachulia who was coming off of Achilles surgery. He was universally loved by the Atlanta fans and we enlisted Drew to remind everyone that "There is first love and there is Zaza Pachulia love."
6. Kyle Korver re-signs with Hawks, extends three-point streak to 101 games
Kyle Korver drew interest around the league but eventually decided to stay in Atlanta agreeing to a four-year deal worth $24 million. Korver set an NBA record when he hit a three in his 90th straight game passing Dana Barros for the all-time mark. After a couple of close calls, the streak currently stands at 101 games heading into 2014.
5. Hawks match Bucks' offer sheet for Jeff Teague
For a moment, it looked like Jeff Teague's tenure in Atlanta would also come to an end. The Hawks eventually matched a four-year offer sheet that Teague had signed with the Milwaukee Bucks, bringing him back to Atlanta. With another year under his belt and the added security of a long-term deal, Teague has thrived in MIke Budenholzer's offense and is currently averaging a career-high in points and assists.
4. Hawks sign Paul Millsap in free agency
The first big move the Atlanta Hawks made in free agency was signing former Utah forward Paul Millsap to a two year deal worth $19 million. That signing is quite possibly the best value signing of any this summer. Millsap has been nothing short of wonderful for the Hawks and has fit in seamlessly with the team and new head coach Mike Budenholzer.
For the season, Millsap is averaging 17.9 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field. He has stepped up big time in the three games since Al Horford was lost to injury averaging 28 points and just under 12 rebounds a game. Millsap has even added a three-point shot to his repertoire this season shooting 43 percent.
A power forward who shows up everyday, plays hard and can step out and actually hit a three? Sign me up.
3. Josh Smith signs with the Detroit Pistons
Only Michael Vick has had more of a tumultuous relationship with Atlanta fans than that of Josh Smith. Josh's nine-year career with the Hawks ended over the summer when he signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Hawks elected to keep Smith at the trade deadline when no deal could be had that didn't force Atlanta to take on future salary commitments.
Smith has had a tough season to date with the Pistons. He is averaging just over 15 points a game while shooting just 40 percent from the field. He has had a series of dustups with Pistons head coach Maurice Cheeks the latest being over a perceived "lack of effort" that led to a second-half benching.
2. Al Horford suffers season-ending injury
The biggest storyline of the current season came on the day after Christmas when Al Horford was injured while reaching for a steal in a double overtime win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tests eventually revealed that Horford had suffered a torn pectoral muscle for the second time in three seasons. Horford had surgery to repair the injury on Tuesday and has been declared out for the remainder of the season.
Atlanta has gone 2-1 since Horford's injury thanks in large part to big performances from Paul Millsap. Make no mistake that the loss of Horford is huge and one that is going to leave a big hole that the Hawks aren't likely to fill.
1. Hawks hire Mike Budenholzer to replace Larry Drew
Atlanta's hiring of Mike Budenholzer as head coach to replace Larry Drew officially signaled the beginning of a new era for the Hawks. Danny Ferry's first year as the team's GM was spent clearing out pieces from the Rick Sund led era and the hiring of Budenholzer was the first move made with an eye towards the team's future.
Budenholzer hasn't disappointed early. Atlanta's offense has been a thing of beauty and the team is currently near the top of the league in assists. Budenholzer wants a team that plays basketball the right way and that is what the Hawks have done since his arrival. He has preached competitiveness since becoming head coach and his team showed that trait well in Tuesday's win over the Boston Celtics where they fought all the way to the end. The Hawks will need that edge for the remainder of the season due to the loss of Al Horford.
I wrote before the season started that the hiring of Budenholzer was the most important move of the offseason and I have seen nothing to make me feel otherwise. This coaching staff is a championship level staff. The offensive and defensive systems are championship level. Now its time to raise the talent level to a championship level.
Others stories deserving mention
When you do a list like this it's tough to figure out what should be in there and what should be left out. Things like Larry Drew leaving for Milwaukee or Lou Williams' ACL injury and subsequent return to the court come to mind. Ivan Johnson leaving the NBA for China most certainly deserves mention. There was also the ridiculous tampering charge that local Atlanta media helped fuel into a national headline. That charge remains the single the dumbest thing that I saw in 2013. The only reason it didn't make the Top 10 was that it has gotten more mention than it deserved already. If I missed anything then please mention it in the comments.
Happy New Year!
It's been a busy year for the Atlanta Hawks and it has been a great year here at Peachtree Hoops. I'd like to take a moment and wish all of my colleagues a Happy New Year but most of all everyone that has taken the time to read this site and comment on the articles. Here's to hoping that 2014 is every bit as entertaining.