During the 2014-2015 regular NBA betting season, the Atlanta Hawks won 60 games, earning the top seed going into the playoffs – before an ignominious sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals. It’s easy to let that loss sully the great work that the Hawks did, as 60-win campaigns have proven rare – especially in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Teams that can do it twice in a row are particularly rare, thanks to a league that is full of talent and has defenders lurking on most rosters that can shut an opponent’s leading scorer down. As the current NBA Finals between Cleveland and Golden State are showing, even the best teams are making a slog of the game right now, and that kind of parity makes the dominance of a 60-win season difficult to produce – let alone reproduce.
However, it has happened before. Boston won 66 games one year and came back to win 62. They won a title in 2008 and went to the Finals the other year. Cleveland won 66 games in 2008-09 and 61 games in 2009-10. However, they fell in the conference finals and semifinals those years, with LeBron James famously standing and watching as the Celtics eliminated his team in 2010. The next season, he and his talents were in South Beach.
NBA Betting: Are the Hawks Ready to Rule Next Season?
The Bulls won 62 games in 2009-10 and 50 in 2010-11. However, that was a lockout year; with an 82-game schedule, the Bulls would still have won 62. They lost in the Eastern Conference finals.
Now that the Hawks are in the offseason, one of their goals is to return to the 60-win mark. However, do they have what some of these other teams had? The Celtics had MVP Kevin Garnett along with Paul Pierce and other strong players on their quad. The Cavaliers had LeBron James. The Bulls had MVP Derrick Rose. These otherworldly players made a significant impact on their teams’ ability to win game after game, night after night. The Hawks don’t have a league MVP on their squad. Can they dominate anyway?
For some, the 60 wins the Hawks stacked up were more a result of catching lightning in a bottle rather than having added the sort of talent that will sustain a dynasty. In the Hawks’ situation, they were very fortunate in the area of injuries. The areas in which the Hawks struggled, such as offensive rebounding, were fortunately camouflaged by strengths in other areas. It’s worth looking at some trends here. In 2014-2015, the Hawks won 73 percent of their games against Western Conference opponents. Before the All-Star break, they won 80 percent of their games, but afterward, they only won 57 percent. They did sweep 11 teams (Brooklyn, the Clippers, Dallas, Houston, Indiana, Miami, Minnesota, Phoenix, Sacramento, Portland Utah, amassing a 24-0 record against these teams. However, they were 3-7 against Toronto, San Antonio and Charlotte.
The team needs to re-sign at least one of DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap – if not both. Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha should return from injury. If the team can get rid of Pero Antic and find a multidimensional center, then they should be able to get back to 60 wins.
However, things change in the NBA. The fact that the Hawks won so many early in the season and then faltered, especially in the playoffs, is a learning moment for the whole team. The Hawks are angry after having such a big regular season and then collapsing against Cleveland. They went from being below the NBA’s radar to being viewed as a team that choked. That motivation may, in the end, what pushes them back to 60 – and past LeBron in the playoffs.