Hawks Season Preview

Hawks 2016-17 Season Preview

This time last year the Hawks were coming off of a 60 win season and a Eastern Conference Finals appearance. They were expected to build off of that performance. The Hawks failed to live up to those high expectations and seemed to somewhat coast to a 48-34 record. After falling victim once again to the Cleveland Cavaliers the Hawks faced many major decisions this summer. After many shakeups how can we expect our team to perform this year? 


SUMMER REWIND

Hawks Sign Dwight Howard

A day that some thought would come four years ago finally came back on July 1st. Dwight finally came home on a three year 70 million dollar deal. He is looking for a new beginning after some down years in Houston and Los Angeles. Dwight has said nothing but the right things since announcing that he was coming home. He was even seen working on his range with a shooting coach and working out with Coach Ham. Dwight will wear number 8 which signifies “New Beginning” in The Bible.

Grant Hill presents Hawks C Dwight Howard with his new jersey (AJC).

Hawks Trade Jeff Teague for the 12th overall pick (Taurean Prince) and draft Deandre Bembry

In a move that nearly every Hawks fan knew was coming, long time starting point Jeff Teague was shipped off to the Pacers in a three-team deal that landed the Hawks the 12th overall pick. That pick would be used to select Taurean Prince out of Baylor. Deandre Bembry out of St. John’s was selected with our original 2pick. Both rookies showed some impressive flashes in both summer league and preseason but both may find it hard to earn minutes this year. However, if they do find their way on to the court both should be able to contribute in positive ways.

Celtics sign Al Horford

A few days after Dwight signed here, Al Horford decided to take his talents to the Boston Celtics on a four year max deal. Since his departure from the Hawks, there have been whispers that Al was frustrated with management over several things including the signing of Dwight Howard. There was also a few swipes towards the fans in Atlanta which may not go over well when Al and the Celtics come to Atlanta in January.

Hawks resign Kent Bazemore

Perhaps the biggest question mark in my eyes coming in to the off season was “would the Hawks spend to keep Bazemore”? The answer was yes, but at the end of the day he wanted to stay home. It was reported that several larger offers from the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers were turned down. Although 70 million over four years may be a bit much for a player of his caliber, that’s what the market was demanding. Baze will be well worth the money.

Kent Bazemore’s three point barrage in the playoffs.


Hawks resign Kris Humphries

This one came as a bit of a surprise to most. With Splitter, Moose and Edy on the roster it was assumed Hump would sign elsewhere. But with him back, we have added front court depth in case of injury.

Kris Humphries sends the bench in to a frenzy.

Hawks sign (and waive) Jarrett Jack

At the time, the move seemed like a no-brainier. A solid backup with experience to back up Dennis. Unfortunately, his knee was not healing as quickly as the team wanted and the injury to Tiago caused the Hawks to keep an extra big. Due to this, Jack became the odd man out and finds himself waiting for another NBA team to call him.

Hawks sign Malcolm Delaney

Delaney comes to Atlanta after spending his first five years overseas. Although he enters without any NBA experience, he has plenty of big game experience from some of the best European leagues. There may be some growing pains but he should do a fine job backing up Dennis.

Preseason Recap

For whats it’s worth, the Hawks posted a 5-2 Preseason record. More importantly, the Hawks defense looked formidable. Last season the Hawks had the best defense in the league after Christmas, with the addition of Dwight we should be able to keep that up. The Hawks ranked 1st in Defensive Rating during the preseason as well as 4th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage. The offense still needs some work integrating the new pieces but still managed to come in 1st in Assist Percentage.

Albeit mostly against back up centers, Dwight was able to feast this preseason. Against the Cavs he posted 23 points in just the first half. It was great to see Dwight adjust so quickly to the new system. Hopefully those positives carry over to the regular season. Dwight did end up in foul trouble several times but under a higher pressure, regular season game it can be expected for him to curb that in a bit.

After missing the first few games, Millsap came back without missing a beat. He put up a near triple double in only 19 minutes against the Magic. Kyle and Thabo impressed throughout hitting over 50% of their threes. Despite a terribly slow start, THJ warmed up in the last few contests; perhaps saving himself a roster spot. All three rookies also showed promise. It may be hard for Prince and especially Bembry to find minutes however.

The Hawks new big three (AJC).

WHAT TO EXPECT

Expected Depth Chart

Starters                                                                                                                          Key Reserves
PG: Dennis Schroder (13.3 PPG 2.8 RPG 6.1 APG)               Malcolm Delaney (7.7 PPG 3.6 APG)
SG: Kent Bazemore (12.6 PPG 4.1 RPG 3.1 APG)                               Tim Hardaway JR (5.9 PPG)
SF: Kyle Korver (9.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG 2.7 APG)                                        Thabo Sefalosha (8.1 PPG)
PF: Paul Millsap (18.6 PPG 8.2 RPG 4.1 APG)                                        Kris Humphries (5.3 PPG)
C: Dwight Howard (15.2 PPG 11.8 RPG 1.9 BPG)                                      Tiago Splitter (4.9 PPG)
Mike Scott, Deandre Bembry, Taurean Prince, Mike Muscala and Walter “Edy” Tavares may see some slim playing time but outside of injuries it will be hard for them to see regular rotation minutes.

Hawks G Dennis Schroder with Celtics G Isaiah Thomas in the
background (Scott Cunningham).


Expected Outcomes

Most National writers and bloggers have the Hawks finishing anywhere between 5th and 7th in the Eastern Conference, citing the departures of Teague and Horford. Those departures are grossly overrated. The biggest achilles heel in last year’s playoffs was rebounding. One could argue that the Hawks outplayed Cleveland in three of the four losses but were vastly out rebounded. The addition of Dwight completely changes that dynamic for the Hawks. While we won’t be able to field a five guy shooting lineup, Dwight still commands great defensive attention. This will lead to open shooters which the Hawks have plenty of.  With Schroder and Howard at Point and Center, the Hawks offense will also feature more pick and rolls; an area both excel in.

Kent Bazemore pregame (NBA.com).

Chemistry could be an early issue with all the new pieces but thankfully the Hawks’ schedule starts out very soft unlike last year. The pressure of winning 60 games the year before will also not be bearing down. The major concern is health. Dwight hasn’t been able to stay on the court consistently the past few seasons. He has stated multiple times that this is the best he has felt in years which is a great sign. However, we have an abundance of front court depth to combat an injury. Also, with the Hawks carrying only two point guards, we would have to rely on Bazemore or even Bembry to be the back up if there is an injury to Dennis or Malcolm. Both of these players are
capable in an emergency, but it is a less than ideal
situation.

Overall, expect the Hawks to turn a few heads this year. A healthy, motivated, happy and comfortable Dwight; a healthy Korver; a motivated Schroder; an unselfish offense and defense performing at last year’s level are the keys to success this year. All of those should be attainable given our system. Given we manage to stay healthy, there’s no reason why 50 wins aren’t out of the question. The East is much improved, therefore 50 wins would probably only land a four seed. Expect us to once again fall victim to the Cavs in the 2nd round before entering another summer that will be full of huge decisions. It should be a fun season full of excitement and surprises. Let’s go Hawks! #TrueToAtlanta

Phil Veasley
@ATLHawksPhil

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Phil Veasley
Phil Veasley is a resident of Atlanta who has been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2005. He is Civil Engineer student at KSU. Currently, Phil writes for Atlanta Hawks Talk while also managing all ATLSportsHQ sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @_ATLPhil

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