The NBA playoffs usually produce a few young stars, with the spotlight that comes from the increased pressure really pushing some players to ascend to new levels of play. Last year, Pascal Siakam became a shocking number two option on an NBA championship team. This year, it's going to be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder who...
Far Fetched Friday: The Hawks Will Make the Playoffs before the Mavericks
By: Ryan Stein
Welcome to Far Fetched Friday where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we think will come to fruition. This Friday the bold prediction is that the Atlanta Hawks make the playoffs before the Dallas Mavericks.
The Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks will be linked together for a long time after their draft-day trade in 2018. The deal, which sent the number 3 pick, Trae Young, as well as the Mavs' 2019 top-5 protected 1st round pick to the Hawks in exchange for the number 5 pick in Luka Doncic, was the biggest trade of the night. Experts claimed the Mavericks fleeced the Hawks, with Atlanta giving up a transcendent talent like Doncic for a Stephen Curry pipe dream in Young. However, I believe this trade will ultimately be won by the Hawks and that they will actually end up making the playoffs before the Mavericks.
While the Mavs had a surprising push for a playoff spot in the first couple of months this season, neither team had a particularly impressive year. That being said, the Hawks have been trending in a positive direction over the 2nd half of the season, sporting a 19-25 record since starting the season 6-23. While 19-25 is not amazing or even average, the improvement from the first half of the season to the second half is an encouraging sign. Meanwhile, the Mavericks have been trending the opposite direction, starting with a 15-11 but going 13-33 since. While part of downward spiral can be attributed to the Mavs trading away rotation pieces like DeAndre Jordan and Harrison Barnes, the huge drop in play is a cause for concern.
Even with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis for next season, the Mavs' odds of making the playoffs are low. There is not much chance of them getting a top free agent like Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, and there isn't likely to be enough improvement from within to turn Dallas into a 50-win playoff team. The competition in the West is so stiff that dramatic changes would have to be made for the Mavs to be legitimate playoff contenders.
The Hawks have a much easier path to the playoffs than the Mavericks, in no small part because they have the benefit of playing in the Eastern Conference. Trae Young has emerged as a future star after starting the season in a shooting slump. John Collins is a legit 20 points, 10 rebounds type of player with room to grow. The Hawks also have plenty of cap space this offseason to sign contributors. Based on the standings, the Hawks would have the 5th and 6th picks in this year's draft. Those picks put the Hawks in an excellent position to pick up two young potential stars like Cam Reddish and Jarrett Culver, or even possibly moving up to pick RJ Barrett to be their shooting guard of the future. The combination of incumbent players' improvements, impact free agents, and rookies give the Hawks plenty of potential to sneak into the playoffs.
The Mavericks are obviously still ecstatic with the trade, as you'd be hard-pressed to find a player more exciting than Doncic. That being said, don't expect the Mavs to ascend into the playoff picture until the 2020-2021 season, perhaps with the aid of a max free agent. The Hawks, meanwhile, could end up beating out a team like the Miami Heat for the 8th spot in the playoffs next year.
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