This is an excerpt from today's edition of 5-on-5:
What's the biggest reason for the Hawks' success this season?
Defense and continuity. I know that's two reasons, but you can't pick just one with an ensemble cast like the Hawks. Don't underestimate the continuity thing. The fact that these guys have played together for a while, compared to teams like Cleveland (and even Chicago) working in key new pieces, is a big edge. But let's face it: Atlanta was a bottom-five team defensively at Thanksgiving and is a top-five team defensively now. Al Horford has gradually played his way back to top form and has sparked that turnaround on D.
How far will the Hawks go this season?
They can get to the Finals. I'm a firm believer in that after what we've seen since Thanksgiving. Could they use a real rim protector and more bulk in the frontcourt? Sure. But the Hawks have to feel better about their chances to do something truly meaningful than most of their West counterparts just by virtue of their favorable conference. It didn't play out this way last season, because San Antonio was just so ruthlessly efficient against Miami in the best series we've ever seen from the Tim Duncan era Spurs, but I continue to believe that the top East contenders have the great luxury of knowing that the West champion is going to take a lot of punches on the way to the big stage. Cleveland and Chicago still have higher ceilings than the Hawks if they can finally find a level of consistency come May, but you have to regard Atlanta as the favorite in the East -- as we speak -- based on the available evidence.