The Atlanta Hawks concluded a busy, five-game week on Saturday night. Continuing their recent hot streak in the month of January, the Hawks won four out of their five games (the only loss came on Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons). Even though most of these games were against beatable teams, a 4-1 record on such a packed week is a nice mark for Atlanta.
The most important takeaway from this week is that the Hawks look more and more locked into competing during this season (and thus avoiding a rebuild). This could certainly change after a week or two of poor play later on, but the team’s recent successes make staying the course this year even more likely. While the schedule will get more difficult in the next few weeks, the Hawks look primed to be mid-level playoff team at the moment.
Since the Boston Celtics lost tonight to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Hawks' recent wins have brought them within a half game of third place in the East. Boston projects to be better over the second half of the season, but the slim margin in the standings points to how well Atlanta has played recently. The Celtics' most recent misstep — a fairly bad home loss to Portland — has also helped Atlanta’s cause.
While the situation is obviously more complicated than this, every Atlanta win feels like a slight step away from a Paul Millsap trade. There are reports that some teams still expect that the Hawks’ star forward could be traded, but everything in Atlanta (again, for the time being) points to immediate contention. This can also be seen in the rotations that Mike Budenholzer has used recently. Teams that are planning to rebuild wouldn't start Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Kris Humphries over Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry.
Whether or not the Hawks should rebuild is still a valid question, but for now it may also be an irrelevant one. Fans who don't like the idea also have a lot to look forward to, as both the individual players and the entire on-court product have been excellent recently. The defense has been close to elite — even with the blowout in Detroit — recently, and solid performances in back-to-backs this week is encouraging as well.
This week, Atlanta’s schedule is much lighter, featuring a home contest against the Clippers on Monday, a road game in Chicago on Wednesday, and a home matchup with the Wizards on Friday. After a week of five games in seven days, a more spread out slate will be a welcome sight for the team. However, these games carry a higher degree of individual difficulty than many of the ones from last week. The Clippers are still a good team without Chris Paul, and the Wizards have played extremely well recently (they’re solidly in the playoff picture now). In any case, this should be another fun upcoming week for the Hawks.