Monday, October 24, 2016

2016-17 Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

The Atlanta Hawks had a great year in 2015-2016 culminating in an ugly sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.  In the playoffs their lack of depth showed as did the fact they were moving away from Jeff Teague at point guard.  In the offseason Teague was traded, Al Horford signed with the Boston Celtics and the Hawks signed hometown hero Dwight Howard to a $23M a year contract. 
Losing Horford hurts.  An undersized center he was more to the team than the 15 and 7 he put in the stat sheet each night last year.  While most Hawks fans would echo that sentiment it may or not be overstated.  Enter Dwight Howard.  While there have been rumors in past Howard free agent years of the Hawks making a run at him I didn’t see this coming.  Howard is now 30 and while very efficient shooting he only put up 13 points and 11 boards last year while continuing to “struggle” in Houston.  He is a defensive upgrade but definitely one dimensional on offense which might clog up the middle.  My hope is that this is the right system for him and that he can be better than what we’ve seen in the recent past. Paul Milsap will once again be counted on for big things on both ends of the floor.  In his free agent year I’m hoping he can mesh with the new look offense and maybe want to stick around longer.  I was slow getting on his band wagon but he is good and been a key to the Hawks’ success.  If the Howard acquisition doesn’t work or other players don’t step up he could be looking to move on come this next offseason.  

Running the team now at the point is up and comer Dennis Shroder.  He showed last year in the playoffs he has more to offer.  Can he do it consistently is the question.  I can’t wait to find out.  He must shoot consistently and be able to control turnovers with the extended minutes he’ll get.  Kent Bazemore signed a big deal in the offseason totaling $70M over 4 years.  That shows Atlanta believes he can be more of a scorer than the 11 points a game he put up last year – the only time he has scored double digits for a season in his career.  Small forward is his and with the need for scoring I’m hoping he can put up 15+ every night but that is a lot to ask for.  Shooting guard is still Kyle Korver’s.  I’ve said it over and over - he isn’t a scorer.  That said, he can shoot from three like nobody’s business.  I think he is better suited coming off the bench sharing time with both units.

Newly drafted wings Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry will be expected to help with scoring which is the big need for the Hawks.  Thabo Safolosha is back from injury as is Tiago Splitter.  Mike Scott and Kris Humphries will be depth at power forward.  This all gives Atlanta much more depth than they had last year.  How good they are coming off the bench will go a long way in deciding how good this team really is. 

Atlanta is very good.  Not great but very good in the Eastern Conference.  With the changes made, players back from injuries, and new young blood it is easy to think Atlanta will be better than their 48 wins last year.  It can also be thought there are too many new moving parts and something in the machine is bound to fail.  I’m in the middle thinking they can win 45-48 games and will again be in the middle of the pack.  It just seems like way too many things have to go just right for this team to be much better.  I’ve got my fingers crossed but something in the back of my head just isn’t sold yet. 

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