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On the NBA Beat Ep. 2.17: KL Chouinard: Hawks “Have a Shot Against Cleveland”

The Hawks’ season thus far can reasonably be separated into three segments: (1) a hot start, (2) a brutal stretch 11-game stretch, and, finally, (3) the successful period Atlanta is currently enjoying. Kevin “KL” Chouinard, digital writer for the Atlanta Hawks  and host of the new ATL and 29 podcast, graces the show with his presence, discussing how Atlanta bounced back from its miserable late-November, early-December slump, the process of integrating free-agent addition Dwight Howard, Dennis Schröder’s excellent first season as a starting NBA point guard and how Paul Millsap serves as the glue that keeps the team together. Of course, many other opinions are rendered, including why this season’s Hawks actually stand a chance against the defending champion Cavaliers who swept them one postseason ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals (not to mention the sweep in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals). Below, sample some exhilarating episode excerpts:

5:15-6:06Kevin details the keys to Atlanta’s strong recent defense:

“What’s changed recently, compared to the 1-10 stretch, is they put Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup, and he’s really one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA…Millsap (is) playing more minutes with the starters and so that’s a much better defensive unit they’re using to start games. And it’s not perfect, because in opting for more defense, they’ve got less offense.”

9:02-9:31Last season, Dennis Schröder was arguably the best backup point guard in the NBA. Now, Malcolm Delaney is the team’s backup after Jeff Teague was traded to the Pacers in the offseason:

“He’s a professional point guard. He spent five years in Europe. He won a championship in France, won a championship in Slovenia, won a championship in Germany, and then he played two years for Lokomotiv Kuban (in Russia). In those two years, he brought them up a level and then into the EuroLeague Final Four, so he had a really successful career in Europe. It’s not a flashy type of game that he plays. It’s really an understated type game.”

11:44-12:15Our guest explains why it is vital for the Hawks to integrate Dwight Howard more into the team offense:

“They need to be able to find him more and find him in a comfort zone…They don’t really use the post game much, and I can understand why: it’s not really part of their offense. They’re more of a pick-and-roll type team, but they still need to figure out a way to keep him involved, just so that he keeps that touch. Because when he goes too long between touches, it’s hard to stay involved.”

13:52-15:05Paul Millsap has been integral to the Hawks’ success this season:

“He’s everything to the Hawks…When he’s not around, they just collapse. He does a little bit of everything for them. He’s their secondary creator…If it’s not coming from the point guard, it’s almost always going to come from him. When they face defenses that switch…it comes down to one-on-one play, and when it does, it’s either Schröder or Millsap who is going to make the play in that situation. He’s their best natural passer….Just defensively, he’s unbelievable and even more so with someone like Howard playing behind him. He can play low…because if he misses it or if doesn’t quite get the deflection, he knows that in most cases he’s going to have Howard behind him.”

18:18-19:42Kevin analyzes the Hawks’ chances in the playoffs:

“I think they want to at least take one chance at it….If there’s a Boston-Atlanta series, Boston might have the upper hand. They’ve looked really good against the Hawks this season. But, at the same time, Boston would have a heck of a time trying to keep up with Cleveland, and I think that the Hawks using a Millsap-Howard-Sefolosha frontcourt, can do some things to slow the Cavaliers. You’ve made a team specifically with the goal in mind of trying to do something to the Cavaliers…And if you were to beat the Cavaliers, could you beat a team like San Antonio or Golden State with this Hawks roster? Probably not. I don’t think that this particular Hawks team is built for the regular season. I think it’s built for the postseason. It’s a 47-wins-and-slog-through-some-seven-game-series type of team. I think that they would have a shot against Cleveland, but I don’t know if they’ll get that far or if Cleveland will get that far or how they could do beyond that. It’s a reasonable chance.”

Music: “We Like to Party” by Kevin MacLeod