NBA.com released its weekly Power Rankings this morning and sitting at the top of the list at #1 was the Atlanta Hawks. Unimaginable just a couple years ago, and a stretch even at the start of this season, the ranking is a huge sign of how far this team has come.
Making the jump from a solid playoff team to a legitimate contender is the toughest one to make, and some might argue that the Hawks have not done enough to warrant a ranking in the top group, much less the top spot. A look at the other teams in the top group and their argument loses steam: Phoenix, Boston, Portland and Denver round out NBA.com’s top-5. Atlanta has beaten the Celtics and Blazers on the road and handled the Nuggets by 25 at the Highlight Factory. It is safe to say that the Hawks have passed their early season tests against other teams in the league that are playing at a high level.
Champions are not crowned in November, but the Hawks don’t appear to be getting full of themselves. They still seem to be operating with a bit of a chip on their shoulder after being left out of all the preseason talk about contenders in the Eastern Conference. The media has been obsessed with the Cavs/Celtics/Magic and their star power, and is just now starting to notice Atlanta.
More tests are on the schedule for the Hawks this week against three of the hotter teams in the league. Portland owns the league’s longest winning streak (6 games), Miami is only a half game behind Atlanta at 7-2, and Houston beat the defending champion Lakers on the road by double digits last night. The good news is that these tests will be taken in the Highlight Factory where the Hawks are 4-0 and are winning by an average of 17.5 points per contest.
It is early, but these early season tests all factor in. The Hawks are gaining confidence, gaining respect and gaining attention around the league.