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NBA Atlanta Hawks

5 Keys to Atlanta Hawks’ 2014 NBA Title Hopes

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5 Keys to Atlanta Hawks' 2014 NBA Title Hopes

Hawks
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks have held their own in the Eastern Conference for a few years now. It seems year in and year out the Hawks find a way to make it to the playoffs. It's a great feeling as a fan to make the playoffs. It's a not so great a feeling when the team hardly ever makes it out of the first round.

Being in a conference with this generation's Michael Jordan, or perhaps this generation's Chicago Bulls would be a better analogy, is never easy. The Miami Heat have dominated the NBA since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. So it has been a tough road for the Hawks to try to win their first championship since 1958 and their first in the city of Atlanta.

The city of Atlanta has not won a major sports championship since the Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995 against the Cleveland Indians -- Cleveland being another city that has struggled to win championships in professional sports.

Unlike several media outlets, I consider the WNBA as a sport. The Atlanta Dream have been the only professional sports team in Atlanta to come close to a championship since 1995. For a few years now it seems like they're in the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals every year. With a star like Angel McCoughtry leading them, I would not think otherwise.

A championship for the city of Atlanta would mean so much. No more jokes about choking in the playoffs. No more jokes about the Hawks even being a sports team. Those jokes about the Hawks not existing are pretty stupid anyway.

The signing of Mike Budenholzer surprised a few and excited a lot more than a few Hawks fans. Spending nearly 20 years with the San Antonio Spurs under the legendary Gregg Popovich taught Budenholzer a ton.

This season, Budenholzer has shown that he learned a lot under Pop. The Budenholzer-led Hawks are currently the fourth seed in the East behind the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and the young and determined Toronto Raptors.

Several things need to happen in order for the Hawks to even make it past the second round in the NBA playoffs. I'll tell you why in the following slides.

Dalton Keene is an Atlanta Hawks writer for RantSports.com, you can follow him on twitter @daltonjkeene and add him to your circles on Google.

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5. Stop King James.. If You Can

LeBron
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Stopping the Miami Heat seems like a reach for any team, even though they are currently the second seed in the East and not the first. They do lead the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, though.

The Atlanta Hawks need to do some investigating or something to obtain the Achilles heel of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

It starts with the King himself, LeBron James. He is a dominant force in the NBA and he will continue to be dominant until someone, somehow, someway, discovers how to stop him.

The Hawks may have a guy who can stop King James on his bad day rather than his good days. That guy would be the "Junkyard Dog" DeMarre Carroll. He has done an excellent job defending the best offensive player on the opposing team all season long for the Hawks.

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4. Trade For Evan Turner

Sixers
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Making a trade does a lot for a team. Whether they're a team in bad shape or a team in good shape like the Atlanta Hawks currently are.

The Hawks have been missing a key component to being a real unstoppable team. I've always thought that the Hawks needed to find a strong shooting guard who can handle his own off the dribble.

The Hawks were rumored to have been going after Evan Turner, so maybe that's the key guy that the Hawks need to really climb the hurdle that is the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

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3. Get Al Horford Back

Horford
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

This has yet to be determined, but there is a chance that Al Horford could return to the Atlanta Hawks before the season ends. Most likely the playoffs rather than the regular season.

Horford has always been a key part of the Hawks' success of making the playoffs seemingly every year.

The 6-foot-10 center from Florida was averaging 18.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game before he went down with a pectoral tear. Seeing Horford go down diminished some championship hopes for the city of Atlanta and its fans.

Without Horford, Pero Antic and Elton Brand have really lifted their game to another level. Yes, I said Elton Brand. EB is still doing big things with Atlanta and don't be surprised if you see him around for another year or two. He's been looking younger than ever recently.

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2. Feed The Best Players

Teague
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

A huge key to any team wanting to bring home a championship would be consistent play of their All-Stars, or basically just guys you should always look to on the team.

The Atlanta Hawks have to keep pushing Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap to where they want them to go in their careers. It has been great to see Teague grow up as a Hawk. Every year it seems like Teague is getting better and more well-rounded at the point guard position.

Teague is still somewhat young and has a lot of years left in him. I personally believe that Teague can be a consistent All-Star; all the Hawks need to do is keep surrounding him with players who flow well with what he knows how to do and what he can do on the court.

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1. Keep Playing Well

Atlanta
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

This one was easy. I know it seems like common sense, but hey, why not add it?

The main thing the Hawks need to do this year is keep playing how they are playing. The Hawks have had a great season so far. Being in the Eastern Conference should not reduce their talents or reduce how highly one should think of them.

They have talent, and they have a lot of it. Jeff Teague along with Paul Millsap, Pero Antic and Louis Williams make them one of the most dynamic professional basketball teams that the city of Atlanta has seen in a long time.