There's nothing like mid-winter NBA when it comes to lulling basketball writers into taking up the same, boring, often incorrect stories. That call to cliche is why the Hawks, by stealing a branch from the Tree of Pop, have been branded "Spurs East" en route to dominating a historically weak Eastern Conference. However, blindly assuming that passing+shooting+winning=Spursian Dynasty seems pretty dumb, so I wanted to see if there are stylistic similarities as well. At risk of spoiling this article twice before the first paragraph is out, uh yeah, there definitely are.
Nearly four years ago the Spurs pawned George Hill off on the Pacers in exchange for the right to develop Kawhi Leonard from the 15th overall pick into the 2014 Finals MVP, which works as a good starting point for this iteration of the Spurs. Going back any farther than that means dealing with stat sheets led by Richard Jefferson, and I'm just not comfortable in that sort of world anymore. So let's break it down. (Full size radars at bottom. All Spurs stats from the 2011-2012 season, courtesy of NBA.com. Hawks stats run through 1/19/15. Counting stats are per36, outer radar rim is highest percentile by position G,F,C)
The 2011-2012 season also saw change in the San Antonio backcourt. While Tony Parker had a typically excellent season, Danny Green and his revamped shooting stroke fit seamlessly in beside him as essentially a 3-and-D shooting guard.
If anything, this Hawks backcourt might be better than that Spurs one. Teague actually converts threes at a decent clip, and has a large edge over Parker in STL+BLK, which covers for Korver's athletic deficiencies. Korver is also a better shooter and passer than Green was, and shows fairly well on the glass given his limitations.
Oh right, almost didn't mention that Manu was dope. There's no equivalent here on the Hawks because he has had no equivalents in the last fifteen years. If this is where you want to call the comparison busted, then you hop right on that horse and bust some ass out of here. I feel reassured about it though due to age: while the Hawks don't have anyone as good as him now, they do have plenty of development time for Teague and Dennis Schroeder, and it's not like he has a crazy statistical style besides "be good at everything."
It might seem obvious that all of these guys are really good - they're starters on teams with title ambitions after all - but not every title team has a great one-through-five. For context, that crap on the right is what Derek Fisher looked like starting for a high-offense title contender in 2011-2012.
Ouch. Moving on.
The forward positions for each of these teams are considerably less exciting. Kawhi was still a rookie who couldn't shoot jumpers, and Boris Diaw was just about as crappy as an insanely-skilled player can be, which made for an unimposing forward line. The caveat here is obvious though; some games saw a Duncan-Splitter front line, and Green played a lot of forward when Manu came into the game. Still, assuming that Dermarre Carroll and Diaw are a tie (they are), is there anything Kawhi could do that Millsap can't?
And again, we get to use another boring LA starter from that 2011-2012 season for context. Joy.
The trickiest comparison is definitely center. Where Tim Duncan is one of the best players of all time, Al Horford is coming off a severe injury. As such, I'm going to use Al's 2013-2014 season where he was actually pretty healthy as a benchmark. I'll be fair - even Budenholzer himself wouldn't dare make this comparison. But you can see some similarities in the lack of offensive rebounding and the ability to stay out of foul trouble, as well as the ability to score efficiently even with high usage rates. Besides, it's not like the 2012 title team had a great starting center.
Will Horford get back to this sort of plot is not a question I can answer, and neither is the question of whether the Hawks will grow into a true title contender over the next couple seasons. I do know, however, that they're probably one really good player short, and that they're currently slated to have the 15th pick this year.