2) Atlanta Hawks
Record against the Wizards last season: 3 Wins, 1 Loss
Unlike last season, the Atlanta Hawks are a bit harder to gauge than they were in the previous years. Atlanta has always had a reputation of being a mediocre team in the conference, and with the loss of Josh Smith, that certainly won’t change. The Hawks have had a confusing few years, since they haven’t quite decided what direction they want to take their team in. Do they want to start a rebuild, or do they want to continue losing in the first round of the playoffs every season? From the looks of it, the Hawks seem content with the latter.
The Hawks have signed Paul Millsap to help fill the void without Josh Smith, but their annual playoff appearance isn’t quite guaranteed this season, especially since a lot of lower eastern conference teams have upgraded their rosters. Smith has moved on to the Detroit Pistons, who have also signed free agent Brandon Jennings, which probably gives them the edge over Atlanta on paper. The Cleveland Cavaliers added a plethora of players including Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and this years first overall pick Anthony Bennett. Needless to say, their playoff hopes are looking grim heading into the season.
But how do they match up against Washington?
Last year, the Hawks stacked up a few wins against the Wizards which included a couple without John Wall. When Wall returned to the lineup, the Wizards gained a significant advantage over the Hawks since they didn’t have to depend on the supporting cast as much. The Hawks still have a very good front court with Al Horford and Paul Millsap, but besides that, nothing really sticks out. They’ll probably end up being sub par team, and without a legitimate star, I’d probably have to give the slight edge to the Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal will continue to elevate this years Wizards team, and with the addition of veterans Al Harrington and Eric Maynor, the Wizards have added some much needed depth to their roster.
Of course, the matchup of John Wall and Jeff Teague has always been fun, but Wall is on the cusp of stardom and I fully expect him to eclipse Teague when they’re matched up. The new additions in Atlanta will make for an intriguing season, but they honestly don’t have anybody or anything that sticks out enough for them to get an edge over the Wizards.