Matchup Preview: Orlando Magic vs Atlanta Hawks


Concluding our team-by-team season preview series, we take a look at the Atlanta Hawks. HawksHoops‘ Bo Churney joins us to give us some insight on the Hawks. You can follow Bo on twitter @bochurney.

Game Dates

Friday, December 12 @ Atlanta

Saturday, December 13 @ Orlando

Friday, February 27 @ Atlanta

Wednesday, March 25 @ Orlando

Last Season: 38-44; Finished Eighth in Eastern Conference; Lost To Indiana in Round One

November 9th: Atlanta 104 Orlando 94

November 26th: Atlanta 92 Orlando 109

December 29th: Orlando 109 Atlanta 102

January 22nd: Orlando 109 Atlanta 112

Projected Starters

Point Guard: Jeff Teague

Shooting Guard: Kyle Korver

Small Forward: DeMarre Carroll

Power Forward: Paul Millsap

Center: Al Horford

Nov 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) celebrates a victory against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Mavericks 88-87. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Al Horford will be back from an injury that cost him much of last season. What do you think we can expect from him coming off of the injury, and how big of an impact will his return make?

A: His return should make a huge impact, as Horford is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. When Horford went down, he was having a career year, averaging 18.6 points on 59% true-shooting to go with 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists in just 33 minutes. The pectoral tear did affect him the next season the first time he did it, but I do not expect that to be the case this time around; he’s had more time to heal since he didn’t try to come back for the playoffs like he did in 2012. He may need to acclimate back to the game in his first few weeks playing, but after that, I expect him to be better than ever.

Q: Entering his second season as head coach, what are some things that Mike Budenholzer can improve on this year? 

A: A lot of the things Budenholzer can improve on will revolve around Horford and some new-found depth for this Hawks team. Because of injuries last year, a lot of what the Hawks were doing was improvised based on who was healthy and it often resulted in losses. The Hawks were 1-10 in games Kyle Korver missed and 1-8 in games DeMarre Carroll missed. With the acquisitions of Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore, the drafting of Adreian Payne, and the re-signings of Elton Brand, Shelvin Mack, and Mike Scott, Coach Budenholzer will be able to work a little more Popovich-like magic in limiting minutes for his main guys, hopefully resulting in a healthier lineup come playoff time.

Q: What’s a matchup that you’ll have your eye on when the Magic and Hawks meet this season?

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A: Channing Frye against either Horford or Paul Millsap. Frye is like Atlanta’s Pero Antic, meaning he’s a big-man that is capable of shooting and pulling the opposing bigs out of the lane. Frye is a better defender than Antic, but that’s not really the point here; the more successful the Magic are in taking advantage of Frye’s “gravity” on offense, the more likely they will be able to pull out a victory. I think this is the most important aspect in determining the outcomes of the four Atlanta/Orlando matchups this season.

Q: What kind of expectations should this Hawks team have this season? Could they make some noise in the Eastern Conference?

A: I don’t think the Hawks can contend with the Bulls and the Cavaliers, but I think they should be in the mix for homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks finished eighth in the East last season and that was with Horford missing most of the season, and with Millsap, Carroll, Antic, and Korver missing critical time. It would take a repeat of an absolute injury catastrophe for the Hawks to miss the playoffs and predicting that to happen is silly. That all said, I expect the Hawks to finish somewhere between third and sixth in the East, with the second round of the playoffs (once again) being their ceiling.