Can Hawks be fun to watch even if they don’t win many games?

Can Mike Budenholzer make the Hawks fun to watch? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has spoken eloquently and philosophically (and, in my mind, convincingly) about embracing “the process” of rebuilding. Of course, “The Process” has become a derisive term among many NBA watchers after the Sixers marketed tanking so well that a subset of their fans has declared an awful team successful because it has potential. (I was in Philly twice with the Braves this summer, and I can tell you that’s a real thing.)

The betting markets and the statistical projections expect the Hawks to lose a lot of games in 2017-18. As I’ve noted, I don’t blame those fans who don’t like The Process because they think it’s no fun team watching their team lose for some future payoff that may or may not materialize.

Yet, as the Hawks begin anew, can there still be joy in watching them play? Will the Hawks be entertaining even if they don’t win many games?

ESPN’s Zach Lowe (indirectly) tackles that question in his NBA League Pass rankings. Lowe ranks the teams according to several categories of varying seriousness, with the verdict basically coming down to whether a team offers enough entertainment value to be worth watching on TV.

According to Lowe, the Hawks should be more fun to watch than the Pacers, Magic, Bulls and Suns. Writes Lowe:

How does this barren roster of unknowns rank above an objectively more fun Suns team? Mike freaking Budenholzer. Among the bedrock day-to-day NBA certainties: His teams always play hard, and whip the ball around while Sir Foster tickles the organ in the background.

 

They play the Right Way, and when they don’t, Budenholzer makes the saddest agonized coach face outside of Detroit. On a random winter Tuesday of dull games, Atlanta’s Spurs East verve lifts you up — and rekindles memories of that magical 2014-15 team that won 60 games. (Budenholzer is also master of the drawn-out cross-court waves coaches have turned into a bizarro postgame ritual.)

Lowe goes on to name some other things that make the Hawks watchable: the budding stardom of Dennis Schroder, the development of Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry, the potential trade bait among their veterans, the uniforms and ‘Nique’s laugh. But it appears their style of play with Budehnolzer is the main reason Lowe believes the Hawks will be somewhat entertaining.

You saw some of that during the exhibition game at Cleveland the other night. After a shaky start, the Hawks showed some of the “pace and space” flair and defensive grit that made the 2014-15 team a pleasure to watch. Schroder and Kent Bazemore demonstrated how their ability to draw defenders can create space and good scoring opportunities if they make good decisions with the ball.

Obviously, this Hawks team is not nearly as talented as the 2014-15 squad. Also, that good play in Cleveland came mostly against Cavs reserves, and that kind of offensive flow won’t be as easy to pull off when the games count. (Then again, if you are find defensive effort and coordination entertaining, I think the Hawks will provide you with consistent thrills.)

But I can see how there will be nights when the Hawks find their rhythm and are fun to watch, even if the process means they will lose more than they win.

(Note: No game thread today because the game is not on broadcast TV. I’m not in Detroit but I will be posting a post-game blog if I can get the League Pass online stream, which I’m not sure that I can.)

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