NBA TEAM PREVIEWS
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Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs
Presenting an NBA preview of the Atlanta Hawks that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.
What’s Good… Paul Millsap is still in the fold for the Atlanta Hawks, and he basically defines the term solid. You’ll later see that I’ve dismissed Dwight Howard in my Houston Rockets preview, but it’s nevertheless possible that he aids Millsap in securing Atlanta’s frontline. Millsap isn’t a shot blocker or monstrous big man while Howard is, a dynamic Atlanta fans hope will make them successful. The Hawks can throw one of the most versatile and unique set of wings at opposing offenses in the NBA. Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha, and even Taurean Prince are three of the many wings who give the Hawks this dynamic. Also, Mike Budenholzer will finally loosen his grip on the playing time of Dennis Schroder, a decision that could see the young Schroder enter a new side of his career.
What’s Bad… No stars. It worked for the Hawks back in 2014-15, it hurt them in 2015-16. A team that lacks a definite stud with killer instincts will never win an NBA Championship. Kyle Korver, Mike Scott, Jarrett Jack, and others are the sort of players nearly every NBA team can benefit from, but when some of these individuals become primary contributors, making a deep playoff run becomes difficult. Beyond this, anything Howard provides defensively could quickly shift into the world of bad if he continues to show himself to be the ominous presence he’s been throughout his career. Lastly, Schroder was an excellent backup point guard to Jeff Teague, I’m not sure Jack will offer the same ability when backing up Schroder this season (should Schroder end up starting).
The X-Factor… My initial gut check pick is the same after running down the roster – Bazemore. With a four-year, $70 million deal from the Atlanta Hawks in place, Bazemore can no longer be the fun and energetic role player that he’s grown into early in his career. He has been paid to deliver and perform as an elite source of production. The hints are there with low turnover numbers and acceptable percentages in all facets of the game, but can this translate with higher expectations? With Teague gone and the organization placing greater importance on Bazemore, his numbers will need to make a substantial jump.
Bet On… An abundance of double-doubles from Millsap, frustration from Howard, tons of threes from Korver, and so the clock turns. I feel like Atlanta is a fairly easy team to predict with the only main unknown being how Schroder/Jack fill in for Teague. In a slightly improved Eastern Conference, there’s still a lack of top-heavy excellence aside from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are on the rise, but the Hawks should have enough consistent parts to keep them around the middle of the East.
The Crystal Ball Reveals… The Hawks going 45-37, good enough for sixth in the East. Budenholzer will eventually find the right mixture of lineup alterations here, and this type of roster is one that will require tweaking. There’s no “give him the ball and let him go to work” player on this squad. Coaching and clear roles are two ways to attempt to overcome this obstacle. You’re a lunatic if you pick the Hawks to compete against Cleveland for Eastern supremacy, but you’re also bonkers if you anticipate a gigantic fall off solely due to the loss of Teague.