The Atlanta Hawks had one of the better regular seasons in recent memory. They did it without a clear super star on their roster and played solid team basketball led by Mike Budenholzer. They seemed to have built the perfect team, reminiscing of the 2004 Pistons. Even with all the off court turmoil they experienced in the front office, they were able to go out on a nightly basis and perform at a high level. They won over 60 games last season for the first and only time in their franchise history. Then the playoffs came. The Hawks were beat up with injuries and the change of pace the playoffs bring were no match for the depleted Hawks.
Key Offseason Additions: Tiago Splitter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Marcus Eriksson, Dimitios Agravanis
Key Offseason Losses: DeMarre Carroll
The big change for the Hawks roster was losing DeMarre Carroll to free agency. His ability to guard the opposing team’s best player is something that will be missed this season. DeMarre didn’t always show up in the box score but where he did show up was his opponents stats. Even when the elite guards and forwards he had to guard on a nightly basis put up large numbers, they usually did it in a less than efficient way than they are used to. How the Hawks make up for this loss will be the biggest thing to keep an eye on this up-coming season.
Ever since coming from Utah, Paul Millsap has been a consistent piece for this Hawks team. His ability to play a wide range of positions and pairing him with various other big men give this team a lot of flexibility. His usage and minutes decreased last season but his efficiency, especially shooting percentages, went up. He will need to continue to help carry a lot of the scoring for this team, especially when the injuries start to come.
We almost had our first every 50-50-90 season last year thanks to the magnificent shooting from Kyle Korver. We also received the best stat of all time thanks to this enigma, “Whenever Kyle Korver dunks a basketball the Hawks win”. I believe this happened twice last year. Lesson to be learned, Kyle needs to dunk every game so they go 82-0. Stats don’t lie.
In all seriousness, when Korver got banged up down the stretch, it really reflected on the rest of the team. His ability to space the floor and make the opponents respect his shot really opens up room for the rest of the Hawks to utilize their athleticism. He will need to continue doing what he does best which is move without the ball, get open and make those three pointers.
Heading into his third season as a NBA player, Dennis Schroder will have to continue to improve. Last year he improved across the board in terms of production, even increasing his free throw percentage by 15%. Shooting has always been his weakness and you can really tell he has worked hard to improve that aspect of his game. Dennis has always been a player I am excited to watch on a nightly basis because he can do things that do not show up in the box score and his speed and length cause problems for other guards in the league. As he continues to improve and develop, look for him to fight for a starting role.
Most exciting player to watch: Jeff Teague
We finally got to see what a prime Jeff Teague looks like. He had the best Ortg and Drtg of his career and led the Hawks to 60 wins. His efficiency went up as he took less shots and focused more on getting everyone else involved on offense. His speed and change of pace was a real asset for the Hawks last year. The Hawks success will rest on the shoulders of the 26 year old point guard. He is still in that second class of elite guards behind Chris Paul, Westbrook and Lillard but he can still raise his play to join the conversation if he continues to improve.
Prediction: 55- 27
The loss of DeMarre Carroll will be huge but I think the way the Eastern Conference is currently laid out, it won’t affect the Hawks too much. They will have the majority of the core intact and will continue to see growth some guys like Schroder and Kent Bazemore. If the Hawks can continue to develop talent, have their young stars improve, and continue to be coached well by Budenholzer, they should compete for a top two seed for the playoffs, now what happens when the playoffs comes remains to be seen with this group.
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