Oct 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) protects the ball against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Atlanta Hawks. Dwight Howard joins his fourth professional team seeking to find a fit akin to his early days in Orlando.
To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS offers a series entitled NBA 2016-17 Team Preview for each of the Houston Rockets’ 29 opponents. Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?
Included in each profile:
Where the team finished 2015-16
Key 2015-16 stats
Future draft pick status
Current and future salary rank
Off Season Moves
2017 Free Agents
Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
Oct 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) defended by Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Wizards 114-99. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
2017 second round draft pick from Brooklyn Brooklyn’s 2017 2nd round pick to Atlanta [Atlanta-Brooklyn, 7/11/2012]
2017 second round draft pick from Miami Miami’s 2nd round pick to Atlanta protected for selections 31-40 in 2017 and unprotected in 2018 [Atlanta-Miami, 6/27/2013]
2018 first round draft pick from Minnesota
2019 second round draft pick from Washington
2017 second round draft pick to San Antonio Atlanta’s 2017 2nd round pick to San Antonio protected for selections 31-55 (if this pick falls within its protected range and is therefore not conveyed, then Atlanta’s obligation to San Antonio will be extinguished) [Atlanta-San Antonio, 7/9/2015]
Oct 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) drives to the basket against the Detroit Pistons in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Pistons defeated the Hawks 99-94. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward DeAndre Bembry (95) looks to pass as Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) defends during the fourth quarter of the game at the Wells Fargo Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 104-72. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
What do they do now? On offense, they want to use the Dennis Schroder-Howard pick-and-roll to batter the rim — a fine style, but also one that robs the Hawks of what made them the Hawks.
Schroder’s slithery recklessness on the pick-and-roll is magnetic, even if he struggles to finish wild flails at the rim. Millsap is one of the league’s finest all-around players, but some of his best work is the stuff you miss on first watch — not exactly “change the channel!” material.
Of note: Zach Lowe got a little blue in his wording so I didn’t include the best part of this post (about Dwight), so those not offended by a bit or dirty humor please make sure to check out the entire post.
Oct 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) dribbles the ball during the third quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 104-72. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer is shown on the sideline in the first quarter of their game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Defense: ironically what made the Hawks a winning team was their ball movement, but what they survived on last season was their defense.
Coach Bud: Another of Coach Pops disciples (he was his top assistant), is a no nonsense coach with talents on both ends of the court.
Paul Millsap: Did you know Millsap was the top defensive player for the Hawks last season? It’s not a well known fact as most fans know him primarily for his offense. I expect Millsap to bolt in the off season. That is unless he develops a strong bond with Dwight Howard and they have a deep playoff run. Nah, he’s going to bolt.
Depth: Teague was a locker room cancer but despite that he along with Horford were big losses for the Hawks who did little to replace them let alone shore up their bench.
Uncertainty of youngsters: Atlanta is all in on Schroder and Bazemore and seemingly already seem in rebuild mode.
Can Dwight Howard fit the system? I’m not sure how a player like Howard is going to fit into the Hawks system unless Coach Bud plans on changing a lot of things. He certainly isn’t very similar to Horford.
Mike Scott: on any given night Scott can be the difference maker in the game.
Not sure if the hype surrounding Tim Hardaway Jr. is for real or if he’s over rated. That said, he’s had some great preseason showings.
Likely to be traded first:
Paul Millsap got shopped when the Hawks tried to keep Al Horford and given his contract is up for renewal the Hawks may recognize publicly shopping Millsap means they probably won’t keep him barring a deep playoff run.
Kyle Korver is on the downside of his career and is coming off a poor season plus he’s also a free agent. Should the Hawks not be among the top teams prior to the deadline they may try to get value out of Korver.
Hawks had best defense versus top 10 offenses 101 points per 100 possessions versus teams who averaged 107 points per 100 possessions
Leagues best defense after Christmas
Finished with second ranked defense on season
Best team at protecting the rim
Top 7 in forcing turnovers and keeping opponents off the line
Through each of Dwight Howard’s moves he’s experienced a drop off in production. Undeniably his best days were in Orlando (2004 – 2012) where he averaged 18.4 points and 13 rebounds. His time in L.A. )2012-3013) was hampered by injury and an inability to get along with Kobe. Howard still produced reasonable numbers (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds) in spite of coming off back surgery. And of course his days with the Houston Rockets say another dip in production (16 points, 11.7 rebounds), more injuries and the drama between himself and James Harden.
Best Case: Everything fits together seamlessly with Howard rediscovering his form. Schroder transfers to the starting point guard role and a couple of the bench players or youngsters have aggressive growth. If all these things happen Atlanta maybe gets the fifth seed.
Worst Case: Howard gets injured, Schroder has major growing pains and the franchise recognizes the roster is mismatched. Millsap privately asks to be traded and the Hawks go into full on rebuild as they miss the post season.
Notably the worse case scenario is far more likely to happen.