Last offseason, the Atlanta Hawks made a number of win-now moves in an attempt to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. They more than paid off, as the Hawks finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and made a surprise run to the conference finals.
While they lost in six games to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks, the Hawks showed that they could compete with the top teams in the East. But despite last season's success, the Hawks still feel like they have a lot to prove and are entering the new campaign with an underdog mindset.
"People still don't believe in us, and that's normal," Bogdan Bogdanovic said in a recent interview with The Athletic. "To prove someone wrong, you have to do it multiple times. You can't just do it once because once means nothing today. Whatever you do, you have to keep being on top. It can't just be one season of success. You have to continuously be successful over many years. That's what builds respect in the league because we're not going to gain respect from other people in the league over one season."
"It has to happen every year," Bogdanovic continued. "We can't just do it one year and then the next season we get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. We just need to get better, no matter what it is."
While the Hawks should again compete for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, this is the right attitude for them to take. They have a lot of depth, and Trae Young showed last season that he can get hot and carry a team in the playoffs, but they don't have the same amount of top-tier talent as a team like the Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks. Even the Philadelphia 76ers, despite last season's result, could be better than them on paper depending on what happens with any potential Ben Simmons trade.
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It will take a team effort for the Hawks to make another deep playoff run, and they'll need to maintain the underdog spirit they showed last season. There were multiple times in the playoffs where they could have packed it in, but they kept fighting. They were down 18 in Game 4 and down 26 in Game 5 against the Sixers, and came back to win both games and eventually the series. Even in the final loss of their season to the Bucks, they showed great pride to make that a game in the fourth quarter.
Falling just two games short of the NBA Finals was an impressive achievement, but as Bogdanovic noted, they'll need to go out there and do it again before they can comfortably sit in the top tier of the East.