Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA HAWKS
[] 60-22
[] Offensive Rating: 110.0 (6th)
[] Defensive Rating: 104.0 (6th)
[] Net Rating: +6.0 (4th)
[] Eliminated in Eastern Conf. Finals
[] Coach: Mike Budenholzer

The Hawks were the league's best surprise last season, winning 60 games and only falling to the Cavs in the conference finals due to some poorly timed injuries and the sheer dominance of LeBron James.  Mike Budenholzer has pressed fast forward on the Spursification of the franchise, and the on-court results are hard to argue with.  Jeff Teague has blossomed into one of the top PGs in the Eastern Conference, they're fully leveraging the lethal assassin ways of Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap reached personal heights nobody expected over the last two years.  Carroll's off to Toronto, having signed a deal the Hawks just couldn't bring themselves to match in free agency.  Carroll will be missed, but you can bet it will be plug-and-play for Budenholzer.  There are several directions they can go with the SF spot now that Carroll is gone, but I expect them to slide Korver to SF and utilize the newly acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. at SG.  These events likely take the team's defensive capabilities down a notch or two, but this Hawks team is going to be tough again.  Horford and Millsap might be the best frontcourt in the conference and Budenholzer will find guys to fill in the blanks.  Atlanta is going to remain as an imposing force this year.


Projected Starting Five

PG: Jeff Teague - 6'2, 180 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
73
15.9
20.6
25.3%
56.6%
34.3%
.233
86.2%
.360
37.9%
16.6%

Teague was a well-deserved first time All Star in 2015, and I'd entertain the argument that he should have started instead of Kyle Lowry.  There's not one specific area that makes him a good player, but he's an adequate outside shooter, decent finisher, gets to the FT line frequently, and his playmaking numbers are good.

SG: Tim Hardaway Jr. - 6'6, 205 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
70
11.5
12.1
23.8%
51.2%
34.2%
.494
80.1%
.218
13.5%
10.5%

This starting spot could very well go to Thabo Sefolosha, but I think Hardaway will get every chance to earn and keep it.  It's hard to gauge just what his value will be now that he's outside of the dysfunctional Knicks offense.  If his shot selection is smart and his outside shot is on, the trade that brought him to Atlanta is justifiable.  Those are reasonable-sized ifs.

SF: Kyle Korver - 6'7, 210 - 13th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
75
12.1
14.8
14.4%
69.9%
49.2%
.748
89.8%
.197
12.1%
14.1%

Korver also made his first All Star appearance last year, after being named as the injury replacement for Dwyane Wade.  There isn't a specialist in the league better than Korver, who led the league in TS% last season.

PF: Paul Millsap - 6'8, 245 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
73
16.7
20.0
23.8%
56.5%
35.6%
.232
75.7%
.362
15.4%
13.3%

Millsap chose to return to the Hawks in free agency this summer, signing a three year, $60M deal with the third year being a player option.  Millsap earned every penny of that contract after back-to-back All Star selections for the Hawks.  He turns 31 around this year's All Star break, which makes me wonder if we'll see him start to slow down.  Regardless, the Hawks will continue to count on him as a jack of all trades.  The Hawks are going to miss DeMarre Carroll, but they would have missed Millsap much more if he had left.

C: Al Horford - 6'10, 245 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
76
15.2
21.4
22.2%
56.3%
75.9%
.146
13.4%
6.7%
19.8%
1.5

The three-time All Star is in a contract year, which means that he'll be hoping to buck the trend of him missing significant time in ever odd season (GP, starting with 2010-11: 77, 11, 74, 29, 76).  Horford is one of the most underrated big men in the game, as his versatile offensive game sets the tone for the Hawks.

Bench

PG: Denis Schroder - 6'1, 175 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
77
10.0
15.7
27.0%
51.6%
35.1%
.223
82.7%
.269
34.6%
16.8%

Schroder made major improvements in his second year in the league, particularly from beyond the arc and as a playmaker.  The most impressive thing about his leaps in efficiency were that they came in a year where his usage also took a jump.  Another year of improvements from Schroder should see him become one of the league's best reserve guards.

G: Shelvin Mack - 6'3, 215 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
55
5.4
13.2
19.5%
48.9%
31.5%
.435
80.6%
.106
28.6%
13.8%

Mack is a good, not great, third bench guard, providing spot minutes at both PG and SG.  He was better in 2013-14 when he shot close to 34% from beyond the arc.

SG: Kent Bazemore - 6'5, 200 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
75
5.2
9.7
15.5%
52.0%
36.4%
.399
60.0%
.302
8.6%
16.3%

Bazemore figures to get the majority of the reserve SG minutes that don't go to Thabo Sefolosha this year.  He had a career year from beyond the arc, and if he can repeat or come close to that performance, he's a nice bench piece.  Justin Holiday could also see minutes on the wing.

G/F: Thabo Sefolosha - 6'5, 215 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
52
5.3
13.8
14.6%
50.6%
32.1%
.313
77.6%
.233
11.2%
12.2%

Sefolosha's season came to an end at the hands of the New York Police Department, a strange sentence to write about a guy who had literally done nothing wrong.  Nonetheless, the broken fibula Sefolosha suffered from a NYPD baton has healed to the point where he's been cleared for basketball activities.  His defense on the wing will be big for the Hawks with DeMarre Carroll off to Toronto.  He'll have a chance to start, specifically if Tim Hardaway Jr. gets off to a rough start.

PF: Mike Scott - 6'8, 240 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
68
7.8
15.1
21.4%
54.3%
34.4%
.424
79.2%
.170
10.1%
10.9%

Scott's ability to stretch the floor from the PF spot is what makes him a valuable piece of the Hawks bench.  And his excellent nickname (The Threegional Manager) makes him a valuable piece of basketball society.

F/C: Mike Muscala - 6'11, 240 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
40
4.9
18.0
16.7%
60.8%
40.9%
.146
88.0%
.166
13.5%
8.0%

Muscala earned a bigger role as the season wore on, and his overall body of work, albeit in a limited sample size, looks pretty good.  In his 8 games as a starter, Muscala averaged 25.5 MPG, 9.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG on a 62.9 TS%.  The Hawks won't be turning him into a key piece in the near future, but he provides good depth.

C: Tiago Splitter - 6'11, 230 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
52
8.2
18.9
18.4%
60.1%
75.0%
.396
13.9%
10.2%
17.4%
1.3

The Hawks took advantage of the Spurs clearing space on the books for LaMarcus Aldridge, and grabbed Splitter at the cost of a 2017 2nd rounder and Eurostash Giorgos Printezis.  Although I just praised Muscala's level of play last year, Splitter is a massive improvement on the likes of Muscala, Pero Antic and Elton Brand.

C: Walter Tavares - 7'3, 260 - Rookie (2014-15 ACB stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
57
8.3
7.9
1.8
63.5%
65.3%

Tavares, the 43rd pick in the 2014 draft, is a lengthy rim protector who the Hawks will likely bring along slowly behind Splitter and Muscala.  His 7'8 wingspan makes him a presence at the rim, but his offensive game is in the developmental stages.

Outlook

Losing Carroll and replacing him with some combination of Hardaway, Bazemore and Sefolosha obviously hurts, but it's not going to knock the Hawks completely off course.  I like the move that brought Tiago Splitter into a familiar setting, and I think the continued growth of Dennis Schroder will make the bench unit a solid group.  Add that to probably the second or third best starting five in the conference and the Hawks should be just fine.  There's going to be some natural regression built in though, as you can't have expected the Hawks to hit 60 wins again even if Carroll had stayed in the ATL.  They aren't going to be as good as last year, but they're still going to be a true contender in the Eastern Conference.  I think something around 53 wins is where we'll see the Hawks when it's all said and done.  

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