The Atlanta Hawks seemed to have hit their ceiling over the last two years, which led to some rather drastic changes during the summer: Al Horford and Jeff Teague leaving, Dwight Howard making the opposite trip and joining his hometown team. How does this all end?
From a short glance at the roster, they’re weaker. They did hold on to Kent Bazemore who’ll have a bigger role to play which could make him shine. Howard might be happier with Dennis Schroder feeding him the ball and not James Harden, Tiago Splitter might bounce back from a terrible season, and DeAndre’ Bembry had some promising moments in Summer League, and is going to help the team with perimeter defense. Mike Budenholzer remaining might be the best news for the team, but the last two years ending with sweeps against the Cleveland Cavaliers leave the Hawks one disappointing season away from tearing it all down.
Or won’t they? Personally, I hate tanking, and like to see teams repairing, retooling and fixing on the fly, without tearing apart their team. But sometimes, without trying to lose intentionally but just for one season going in a new direction, teams are better off. It’s still tanking, only more subtle, and obviously called something different. But in the end, teams do what they fill puts them in the best position to win a championship, although not everyone operates the same way.
New arrivals: Dwight Howard, Jarrett Jack, Taurean Prince, Malcolm Delaney, DeAndre Bembry, Matt Costello
Left: Al Horford, Kirk Hinrich, Jeff Teague, Lamar Patterson
Best Case Scenario
The Hawks won’t win a championship, but if the system remains, maybe they make it to the conference finals for the second time in three years. It’s hard seeing them doing any better than that. But if both Bembry and Prince work out as expected, which means add quality minutes in two different positions (Bembry at SG-SF, Prince at SF-PF), the Hawks might actually be better than last season.
Millsap is going to be very good, and as long as the offense gives Kyle Korver open shots and he won’t suffer from injuries like last season, he’ll hit 40% of them or more. The bench and depth depend on how Bembry and Prince get involved and adapt to the NBA, but the key players in this new look are Schroder and Howard, not surprisingly. Schroder pushed to become the starting point guard for two years, finally getting his wish, and probably wasn’t getting along too well with Teague. Howard gives the Hawks a big presence in the paint, but unlike Horford, he makes his living near the rim and that’s it. It’ll be interesting to see how the Hawks make up for the lost spacing, and what small ball lineups they can run with their new personnel. If it all clicks, look at a 50-55 win season, maybe a bit more, and at least the conference semifinals.
Worst Case Scenario
Howard gets another head coach fired and another fan base to hate him, the new rookies make zero impact, the Hawks bench simply looks old and ineffective, Millsap simply passes the time until he’s a free agent, angry at being trade fodder. Jarrett Jack is finished and maybe the worse thing will be Schroder not living up to the hype, and trading away Jeff Teague turns out to be a mistake. Obviously, all of this happening at once is probably unlikely, but the Hawks might have the kind of season that makes them miss the playoffs, and start something new.