As the second half begins tonight, the Atlanta Hawks time to make a run as one of the elite teams the Eastern Conference begins NOW!! The Hawks are one of the teams to play at a high level on a consistent basis throughout the season in the East as they’ve done over the last decade. As usual, the NBA has a “prisoner of the moment” team that surges and captures the attention of the league. This season, it’s Atlanta’s Southeastern Division foe, the Washington Wizards; a club that failed to reach the postseason last year and started off terribly this season.
However, Washington has been on a tear since the new year and has many pundits are picking them to face Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Hawks plan to make a serious run, the most consistent franchise in the Eastern Conference over the last decade will have to make a legitimate run starting tomorrow. The Atlanta Hawks have reached the postseason more than any other franchise in the East since the 2007-2008 season.
With the trade deadline over and the Hawks adding Ersan Ilyasova to the roster on Wednesday, the Hawks are making a small statement that we will contend . However, despite the possible addition of another piece; the Hawks need everyone on the roster to step up and contribute. Here’s a look at every player on the roster, their contribution, and how they will be called upon to make a bigger impact in our final 26 games.
1. Paul Millsap
Points Per Game: (18.0) Rebounds Per Game: (8.0) Assists Per Game: (3.8)
Millsap is a top 20 player in the NBA and his four consecutive NBA All-Star Appearance speaks volumes to that and also he’s one of the league’s most underrated players at the Power Forward position. Paul his carrying the load nightly and it sometimes
feels as if he’s doing it alone. So how can he possibly improve you ask? Millsap is averaging his best Points Per Game in his tenure with Atlanta, however, at the expense of
his 43% field goal percentage, he’s shooting at his worst clip of his career primarily because his involvement in Atlanta’s offense is the highest since he’s been in a Hawks uniform. If the Hawks players can contribute and not apply pressure on Millsap to post big stats nightly, you will see his percentage rise exponentially as well as the Hawks win total.
Final stat line prediction:
Points Per Game: 19.0
Rebounds Per Game: 8.0
Assists Per Game: 3.8
2. Dennis Schroder
Points Per Game: (17.5) Rebounds Per Game: (3.0) Assist Per Game: (6.3)
Although we’re complete with 2/3 of the NBA season, we are still trying to figure out the type of Point Guard that Schroder will become in the NBA as a first year starter. At this stage in his career, I can assure you that he’s still l learning how to be the most effective guard on a nightly basis. Despite the concerns, Dennis has provided the Hawks with all of the things they were looking for at his position and even more to come. As the All-Star Break loomed, he was struggling but that’s expected. The glaring area of concern is his decision-making. Currently, he’s ranked in the bottom tier of the league when it comes to turnovers and you can’t have that as a starter for a playoff roster. If the Hawks are going to soar in the second half, they need Dennis to decision making overall from his shot selection to ball handling skills.
Final stat line prediction:
Points Per Game: 17.0
Rebounds Per Game: 3.0
Assists Per Game : 7.0
3. Dwight Howard
Points Per Game: (13.5) Rebounds Per Game: (13.0) Assists Per Game: (1.2)
Dwight Howard has filled the void that the Hawks were missing in previous teams over the past few seasons, a legitimate big man. A center that takes pride in rebounding and at times you can see a difference in extra possessions that they’ve accumulated. However, Howard is only averaging a little over 13 Points Per Game. I would like for the Hawks need to get him a lot more involved in their offensive game plan because when he’s in a zone, he’s still one of the elite centers in the NBA. During the Hawks national TV victory over the Portland Trailblazers, Shaquille O’Neal stated that Howard must be aggressive when demanding the ball & make it known he wants to score. If the Hawks can provide more production in the paint, this team’s potential is unlimited.
Final stat line prediction:
Points Per Game: (14.5)
Rebounds Per Game: (13.5)
Assists Per Game: (1.5)
4. Kent Bazemore
Points Per Game: (11.0) Rebounds Per Game: (2.0) Assists Per Game: (2.6)
If there’s been one player that’s been a complete anomaly this season, it’s Bazemore. For majority of the first half, he was either ineffective or non existent on the court. I’m sure someone put his picture on a milk carton with the word “Missing”. However, as the season went along, slowly we started to see him improve in his third season in a Hawks uniform. Bazemore’s shooting percentage has increased to 43% and his Points Per Game went up as well. If the Hawks can continue to receive production from Bazemore on a consistent basis, the Hawks will be in a great position for the NBA Playoffs.
5. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Points Per Game: (13.1) Rebounds Per Game: (2.5) Assists Per Game: (2.2)
Without the emergence of THJ, the Hawks would be a .500 team or worse. It’s simply amazing how his impact was a saving grace for the Hawks throughout the year. The way he’s played this season for the Hawks is completely similar to the stretch of good basketball we saw from him between February and March last season. Almost makes you wonder why he wasn’t given more opportunities to produce in the Playoffs against Boston and Cleveland.
Hardaway Jr. will be heavily needed to continue this long stretch of high energy prolific scoring he’s exhibited thus far if the Hawks have any chance of making a push for the Eastern Conference crown. Out of the current Hawks on the roster, I expect for Hardaway’s game to elevate to another level.
Did I mention it was his contract season??
Hawks just need for Thabo to get healthy as the regular season concludes. He’s a key assest that is undervalued in this day and age in the NBA. He has shown the ability to hold the opponent’s best player under their average more times than not. Thabo not only leads the Hawks in steals per game, but he can produce for the Hawks offensively at times as well.
“Moose” as they call him started the season off as my “Most Improved Player” award. However, the injury bug bit him and his return has been slow to say the least. The Hawks need him to return to form and improve on his already stellar shooting line. 52% from the field and 43% behind the arc.
|Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney (5) shoots a layup against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports|
Delaney shows glimpses of a sixth man of the year candidate, however, his jump shot is in dire need of improvement in order for the Hawks to have a solid option to relieve Dennis Schroder at times in the final stretch of the regular season. When Delaney is on the floor, Atlanta’s assist numbers double when he’s in per 100 possessions.
Mike Dunleavy/Kris Humphries
This isn’t these two veterans first rodeo. Both can play their role and provide an impact as much as any player on the roster. However, the Hawks could use their contribution in late game situations and for the playoffs so we are hoping that both can play more minutes and contribute well in crucial stages of the game. As rotations dwindle, if they plan to make an impact during the playoffs, Coach Bud wants to know if he can count on them in the clutch.
Taurean Prince/Deandre’ Bembry
We have seen the development of these two rookies all season. First it was Prince’s turn and as of late it’s been Bembry’s time to shine. Both have showed unique qualities from tremendous defense to youthful energy and hustle. If these two can give the Hawks anything offensively to add to their athleticism and defense, the Hawks will greatly benefit from it.
By: Michael R. Thomas II-