No doubt it has been a magical season for the Atlanta Hawks (43-10). A 19-game winning streak shattered the former franchise record and will ever hold this year’s team in Atlanta lore no matter how the season ends up. The Hawks have been a team oriented group all season long; each player buying into their role and doing whatever it takes to win. Atlanta has shared the ball exceptionally well and rank second in the NBA in assists per game, proving that defenses can’t just key in on one player because they are more than willing to swing the ball to hit the open man. All five starters average double figures and the accolades have been rolling in. Atlanta completed January a perfect 17-0, and in return the NBA rewarded all five starters as the Eastern Conference Players of the Month, the first time in NBA history.
Though the team award was nice, every player and Coach Mike Budenholzer will tell you that as long as the team wins, receiving accolades and awards isn’t important. “We appreciate the recognition of our starters’ play during this past month. It is reflective of all the work our entire team and organization has put in,” said coach Mike Budenholzer. “We place a strong emphasis on having the right approach every day and making daily improvement. Collectively, we know that we have a lot more work to do this season and look forward to continue growing as a team.”
This Tuesday marked Atlanta’s biggest accomplishment thus far this season. Kyle Korver will be replacing Dwyane Wade as Atlanta’s fourth player to be joining the Eastern Conference as an All-Star. It is the first time in franchise history that the Hawks will be sending four players and it is also just the eighth time in NBA history that four teammates will be playing together. The last team to feature four all-stars was the 2011 Boston Celtics. Along with the four players, Mike Budenholzer will also be roaming the sidelines. “We would like to thank Commissioner Silver for selecting Kyle as an All-Star. He is an integral part of our team and we are extremely proud that Kyle will be able to join his teammates Al, Paul and Jeff in being recognized this weekend,” said Coach Bud. “This is a positive reflection on all of the work the entire team, coaching staff and organization has put in this season.”
Korver, an 11-year veteran, will be attending his first All-Star game. The Creighton Blue Jay was selected 51st overall by the New Jersey Nets back in 2003 but was subsequently traded to the Sixers. He played sparingly his first season and then his next two seasons he started 100 games. After those two seasons, he was relegated to a bench role as his coaches primarily viewed him as just a three-point specialist. It was not until the 2012-13 season, his first in Atlanta, when he was pegged as a full-time starter, the first time in over six seasons. He continued to shoot extremely well, but this season the entire league has taken notice. Korver is shooting a blistering 51.6 percent from the field, 52.8 from three, and 92 percent from the foul line. If he is able to keep this up he would be the first player in NBA history to slash a line of 50/50/90, giving him the greatest shooting season ever. Korver will have a chance to show his three-point prowess to the entire nation as he headlines the 2015 Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.
Another first time All-Star is Jeff Teague. The Wake Forest product has slowly progressed into the type of player Atlanta envisioned back when they selected him 19th overall in 2009. Teague is averaging career highs in points (17.2), assists (7.5), and steals (1.7). Now in his fourth full year starting, his decision making has improved and he has been a leader on the floor at the point guard position. Teague will showcase his ball handling skills as he returns to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge which he previously competed in back in 2013.
Atlanta’s third All-Star is Paul Millsap. The workhorse out of Louisiana Tech led the NCAA in rebounding all three of his seasons in college, but still slipped to the 47th pick. Millsap began starting full time in Utah in 2011, where he teamed up with Al Jefferson. Though the Jazz had one of the most skilled front courts in the league, they were unable to make noise in the Western Conference. Millsap played strong as a starter for three seasons in Utah, but eventually the Jazz decided they wanted to move forward with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. That decision was a blessing for Atlanta. The Hawks pounced at the opportunity to sign the versatile big man to a two-year, $19 million dollar deal which Atlanta has gotten every penny’s worth. Millsap has been an All-Star in his two seasons with Atlanta and was a main reason why the team stayed afloat after Al Horford’s season-ending pectoral injury last year. His versatility on both offense (35% three-point shooting) and on defense (1.8 steals per game) makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.
The veteran of the group, Al Horford, will be making his third All-Star game appearance. His seven years in Atlanta make him the longest tenured Hawk. After a season-ending injury a year ago, Horford has performed admirably while healthy and gives Atlanta one of the most reliable big men in the game. The former Florida Gator has been a rock on the interior and provides 15.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per night. With such a balanced scoring team, Horford no longer has to shoulder the load offensively.
All four Hawks including Coach Mike Budenholzer will be migrating to New York for this weekend’s festivities. It is a great honor for four players to be named All-Stars as Atlanta looks to keep their mojo going and finish strong heading into the playoffs.