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NBA series betting: Will Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks shock the Miami Heat?

·4 min read
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He's only in his fourth season, but Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young has already become the NBA's top villain. Just ask any Knicks fan. Or Cavs fan. Or any pro hoops fan outside of Atlanta.

Young relishes the destruction he wreaks and luxuriates in the aftermath, like Cruella de Vil with a wicked jump shot. The carnage was on full display in last year's playoffs, when he carried the Hawks on a surprising rampage to the Eastern Conference finals, knocking off the East's top seed in the process. He'll get another shot at it this season, as Atlanta takes on top-seeded Miami in the first round.

The Hawks are +300 on BetMGM to win the series, while the Heat are -375 to advance.

Villain versus Herro

One of the key factors to Atlanta's success last season was its depth. Eight players averaged double-digit points for the Hawks in the 2021 playoffs, led by Young's 28.8 points per game. They're not likely to enjoy that same depth this time around.

Center Clint Capela hyperextended his right knee in Friday's play-in game against Cleveland and is a long shot to play in the Heat series. Power forward John Collins is questionable to play in Game 1 after missing more than a month with a right foot injury.

If one of these two players can't suit up, it's a real concern. If neither of them can go, it's a disaster. Atlanta ranked 21st in rebounding this season, and that was with a healthy Capela, who averaged the fourth-most boards in the NBA (11.9 rpg). Collins was the Hawks' second-best rebounder (7.8 rpg). To add insult to Atlanta's injuries, the Heat have been excellent at keeping opponents off the glass, allowing the third-fewest rebounds in 2022.

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young waves to fans after a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. (David Richard/USA TODAY Sports)
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young waves to fans after a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. (David Richard/USA TODAY Sports)

Even worse for the Hawks is that they're matched up against the deepest team in the league. Miami runs 10 deep, with three All-Stars in their starting lineup (Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry) and another coming off the bench (Victor Oladipo). Sixth man of the year Tyler Herro poured in 20.7 ppg, outscoring most of the starters in the NBA. His lethal form from downtown helped the Heat top the league in 3-point percentage (37.9%).

Like in the movie "Scarface," Miami is full of dudes who can score. The Heat are also terrific on defense. The Heat ranked fifth in defensive efficiency this year, compared to 26th for Atlanta. Miami surrendered the fourth-lowest shooting percentage to opponents, as well as the fourth-fewest points per game.

Fortunately for the Hawks, they had the NBA's most efficient offense this year. Unfortunately, Capela (61.3 FG%) and Collins (52.6 FG%) played an important role in that.

Scoring from deep may prove difficult for the Hawks. They ranked second in 3-point percentage, but the Heat were especially stingy from beyond the arc, giving up the second-lowest shooting percentage to opponents.

The Heat is on

Atlanta finished four games above .500 and were an awful 16-25 on the road. That's an unenviable position to be in versus a Miami team who will be enjoying home-court advantage and had the best home record in the East.

Miami was 3-1 versus the Hawks this year, holding Young below his season averages in points, assists, shooting percentage and rebounds. Young shot 38.2% from 3-point range in 2022, but made just 31.4% of his treys in four games against the Heat.

I doubt Capela will play this series and I question how effective Collins can be if he couldn't suit up for a win-or-go-home game less than two days ago. Young will need a superhuman performance to lift the Hawks past the Heat, but Miami's defense has been so effective at keeping him in check that I just can't envision Atlanta pulling off the upset. The villain will be vanquished and citizens will sleep soundly after cashing their Miami -375 tickets.

Stats provided by Basketball Reference, teamrankings.com, StatMuse, and nba.com.