The Hawks are a reflection of how good the Eastern Conference is. It seems that, no matter what they do, they end up hovering around the third best seed in the conference and bow out in the first or second round. The team has changed personnel a lot in the past ten years, but their caliber really hasn't.
How have they remained near the top of the East? Well, for one thing, the East is really bad. Furthermore, the emergence of a young Jeff Teague as one of the East's better point guards has really helped them. He's the team's surprise of the season, and provides them with a level of distribution that they've never really had. You also can't discount the contributions of the red-hot Kyle Korver, who has rode the ball-sucking abilities of Teague, Horford, and Milsap to a redonkulas 52.3% average from three, and broken the NBA record for consecutive games with a three made.
Recently they've had Lou Williams come back from injury, but he hasn't really found his sea legs yet. He's a spot on distributor, but his shot has been off and on. If he could become the player that he was a season ago, the Hawks would stand a very good chance of tipping the scales in their favor and being a legitimately good team.
As it stands right now though, the Hawks will generally lose because of a lack of ability to move the ball. They have two semi-legitimate point guards in Williams and Teague, but the team's bigs need to isolate in the post a lot and are pretty prone to losing the ball. Also they don't have the strongest bench, with a lot of their 8th-10th guys having off nights.
Truth be told, the Hawks are a pretty darn average team. They've been able to compete with the league's best, like the Spurs, but they usually come up short in one category or another, and their offense just isn't efficient enough to carry the rest of the load. Thus, the Thunder should be able to win tonight. Both Horford and Milsap have had good and bad nights against the Thunder, and Jeff Teague hasn't been very successful against some of the more prime Western guards that he's had to face lately. Korver might exploit the Thunder's achilles heel of poor three point defense, but he exploits everybody in that way, so I don't think it'll be enough to tip the scale in the Hawks' favor.
EDIT: Looks like Andre Roberson will be starting for Thabo Sefolosha, straight out of the D-League. Kind of a strange move, but it only heightens my suspicions that the Thunder are looking to have him replace Sefolosha when the latter's contract runs out.
What do you think about tonight's game? Let us know in the poll and comments!