The 2014-2015 NBA season was very kind to folks who had faith in the Atlanta Hawks. Mike Budenholzer's team entered last year with an over/under of just 41.5 wins in most places, and beyond that, the Hawks were seen as a 6-to-1 longshot to claim the Southeast Division title. As you undoubtedly know by now, Atlanta was able to fly past their projected win total on the way to a runaway division title and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, and handicappers rejoiced.
Unfortunately, the Hawks simply cannot fly under the radar for the 2015-2016 season, making their Las Vegas appeal more subtle. Still, we are always here to help you attack the market, and in this space, we will take a look at some numbers you can get if you want to get frisky in advance of the season.
Let's get it. (All odds via Bovada.lv)
Jeff Teague - Over/Under 17 points per game, Over/Under 7 assists per game
Given his age (27) and the fact that 2014-2015 was a breakout year, Teague is arguably the most interesting of Atlanta's "big four" when projecting this season's performance. A year ago, the point guard averaged 15.9 points and 7.0 assists per game, and nothing seemed fluky about either number.
With that on the table, I would take the under on points per game and flatly avoid the assists number. I have a hard time seeing Teague averaging much more than the 30.5 minutes per game that he did a year ago, and with Dennis Schröder emerging, jumping more than a full point in scoring would be a stretch. As for the assists, seven is the right number, and without a real advantage, stay away.
Al Horford - Over/Under 16 points per game, Over/Under 7.5 rebounds per game
Al Horford is the best player on the Atlanta roster, but we have to remember that his numbers don't always jump off the page. The big man would have gone "under" on both bets a year ago, averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and much like Teague, you'd have to squint pretty hard to assume a big-time jump in playing time.
For me, both are stay-aways. It isn't fun to evaluate a number and make that distinction, but Horford is settling into a player that is going to post numbers quite similar to these projections in Budenholzer's system. Throw in the fact that Tiago Splitter is on board to shift Horford to the power forward spot at times, and that doesn't speak terribly well of his rebounding opportunities. Punt.
Paul Millsap - Over/Under 17.5 points per game, Over/Under 8 rebounds per game
I love Paul Millsap.
I am taking the under on 17.5 points per game.
Millsap had a fantastic season a year ago, leading the team in both minutes (32.7 per game) and points (16.7 per game). While he earned every penny of a massive four-year contract he was given in the off-season, Millsap isn't suddenly going to make a huge leap in production, and I don't see a reason why we should project a full point increase in scoring with another year under his belt. I don't love the rebounding number at all, but Millsap's scoring "under" might be my favorite player prop of them all.
Kyle Korver - Over/Under 11 points per game, Over/Under 45% 3-point shooting
Korver was either the best or the second-best (hi, Stephen Curry) in the league last season, and if he's healthy, there is no reason to suggest that will cease this year. Still, Korver probably isn't going to average 32.2 minutes per game again as he emerges from off-season surgery and another year of miles on his "tires", and even with 12.1 points per contest a year ago, I don't love the over here. Staying away is just fine.
As for the three-point number, it is just insane to take anyone to shoot over 45%. I know, I know. Korver shot better than 49% and seriously challenged the mythical 50% number a year ago, but the under is the only play if you're going to make one, and I don't feel like betting against Kyle Korver in a shooting competition. No thanks.
Dennis Schröder - Over/Under 11 points per game
The gambling Gods are begging you to buy into the Dennis Schröder hype... and I am doing it.
Schröder just turned 22 years old, and if there is a breakout candidate on the roster, he is it. The talented point guard averaged 10.0 points per game a year ago, and while projecting this type of jump without a real change of role is aggressive, I think Budenholzer will find a way to give Schröder more than 19.7 minutes per game in 2015-2016.
A repeat of 35.1% shooting from three-point range would be just fine, but Schröder is ready to improve on a 42.7% field goal number, and attacking the rim will help. If you're going to play it, play the over.
Will the Atlanta Hawks make the playoffs? Yes (-1800) or No (+900)
This is silly. I am extremely confident that this group makes the playoffs, but when you have to lay 18 to 1 on something, you have to be more than sure. The question, at least in my mind, is how you would feel if Al Horford missed 60 games with an injury, and since that is always in play, I'll stay away here. At the same time, do you think the Hawks miss the playoffs (in the East) more than 10% of the time? I don't, either, and that means you don't want to bet the "no".
Hawks to win Southeast Division (+140)
Hawks to win Eastern Conference (+1800)
Taking the Hawks to win the division last year was, well, brilliant and I can see why you'd want to go back to the well if you pulled the trigger previously. However, Las Vegas fixed their error from a year ago, as Atlanta is actually the "favorite" in the division race, with the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat trailing narrowly behind. For me, the Hawks are the best team in the division, but when pitting them against both the Wizards and Heat, this isn't enough "candy" to justify a bet.
Hilariously, I think the Eastern Conference bet is much better value. Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers are probably going to win the conference, but if LeBron James is banged up or something weird happens, +1800 suddenly looks quite intriguing. I frankly wouldn't recommend putting any hard-earned jelly beans on this wager, but if you have some disposable income, there are worse ways to "invest".
Atlanta Hawks - Over/Under 49.5 wins
While I am not entirely unbiased (insert laughter here), the Hawks "over" was my best bet across multiple platforms a year ago and, well, things went pretty well. This year's decision is a lot more nuanced, as the 2014-2015 number was simply misplaced by Las Vegas, as they failed to account for the return of Al Horford and an improved roster in Mike Budenholzer in year two.
The 2015-2016 team is, on paper, slightly worse than last year's squad, as the swap of DeMarre Carroll, Elton Brand and Pero Antic for Tiago Splitter, Tim Hardaway and Justin Holliday probably leans toward the former. Still, the loss of Carroll is being overestimated in the minds of some, and it can't be overstated just how much of an improvement that Splitter will be over what the Hawks received from Antic.
That is, of course, very simplistic analysis, but last year's point differential lent itself to a team that should have won in the mid-50's, and I expect similar production this season. I would not endorse a full-fledged "life savings" wager as I would have last season, but the over is the right side, as the public continues to sleep on the Hawks.
Fade me if you please, but do so at your own risk. The NBA season is here. Enjoy it.