As the Milwaukee Bucks look to continue their good play with a win over the Atlanta Hawks, Ti Windisch and Adam McGee discussed the game ahead.
Article continues below ...
Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Opposition Intel!
After a few days off will have allowed the Milwaukee Bucks a chance to catch up on rest, they are finally back in action on Wednesday night as they hit the road for one of their toughest tests of the season so far.
Having compiled a 5-4 record up until this point, the Bucks have looked quietly impressive against middle of the road opposition. If they want to be a playoff team at year’s end, they’ll have to get results against some of the top teams in the conference though, and Wednesday offers the Bucks one of their first real chances to do just that.
Currently sitting in second in the East, the Atlanta Hawks return home for this matchup with a record of 8-2 and a five game win streak. Having played in Miami on Tuesday, fatigue could be a factor for the Hawks, but as a much changed team this summer they have already proven that they are a close-knit group who produce consistent results.
Ahead of the action, we caught up with someone who regular readers at the site will know very well to help us learn a little more about the Hawks. I am, of course, talking about my fellow site expert here at Behind the Buck Pass, Adam McGee.
As well as his work here, Adam also writes about the NBA over at HoopsHabit and The Step Back. Most importantly for this Q&A, he’s an Atlanta Hawks fan.
Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Different Center, Different Team?
Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch): How different are these Atlanta Hawks from the teams we’ve seen in recent years, because of the switch from Al Horford to Dwight Howard at the center position?
Adam McGee (@AdamMcGee11): They’re not as different as you may think, but they’re different in a lot of the ways that matter most. I, like most with any sort of attachment to the Hawks, was unsure over how the team would look with Howard over Horford, but the early signs have been incredibly promising.
The system is still carrying the team forward in terms of ball movement, quality three point looks and defense, but most noticeably, the addition of Dwight has transformed the Hawks as a rebounding team. Rebounding has long been Atlanta’s Achilles’ heel, but through 10 games they now rank sixth in the NBA in rebounds, as opposed to 24th last season.
Howard gives them a different option offensively, and is certainly helping with his rim protection, but nothing is more important than his work on the glass. The team looks similar in many ways, but so far they’ve been better thanks to the rebounding.
Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Have The Hawks Upgraded At The Point?
Ti: Dennis Schroder has been excellent so far, while Jeff Teague has struggled since being traded to Indiana. Do you think Schröder is really better than Teague, or does Atlanta do a great job of putting players in positions to succeed thus the stat boost for their point guards?
Adam: I think the pair’s situations at present have a greater influence over their current play than their levels of ability. I would say Teague is the better player right now, but with coaches and players around him that he already knows and trusts, Schröder has a distinct advantage this year.
The way Dennis has started the season hasn’t surprised me in the slightest. If he can maintain it for the entirety of the season, that will be the real surprise. Inconsistency has been a thorn in Schröder’s side for his NBA career to date, but ultimately the Hawks chose to back him and move Teague due to the young German’s superior potential.
If he has matured to a point where the Dennis Schröder experience can be less of a rollercoaster, his recent three-point shooting and pick-and-roll work with Dwight could make him a nightmare for opposing teams.
Ti: For the first time in recent memory, the Hawks went all in and actually used their draft picks. In addition to taking Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry in the 2016 NBA Draft, Atlanta also signed rookie Malcolm Delaney. How have the three new guys fared in Atlanta so far?
Adam: As is kind of the norm for Mike Budenholzer when the Hawks actually do have rookies, Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry have seen pretty limited action so far. Not too dissimilar to Thon Maker for the Bucks, they’re currently only getting any real burn in blowouts.
Malcolm Delaney is a little different though. At 27-years-old, Delaney may be an NBA rookie, but he’s got a vast amount of pro experience. He was named on the All-Euroleague First Team last year, and he’s demonstrated why in his early action as a Hawk.
The Baltimore native is a savvy playmaker, a hard worker on defense and a pretty good shooter. He can make a ton of triples if he’s afforded the space to do so, and he’s almost automatic at the free throw line too.
Ti: If you were to single out one matchup as having the potential to be decisive between the Bucks and Hawks, what would it be and why?
Adam: There’s a good case for this being Dwight Howard against whatever Bucks center is fashionable on Wednesday night, but as he left Atlanta’s game on Tuesday with a quad contusion and is doubtful to play against the Bucks, I’ll go a different way.
Like most teams around the league, the Hawks will be faced with the challenge of trying to match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo. There’s no good option to matchup with someone as unique as Giannis at this point, but the Hawks would seem to be better equipped than most.
Although he’ll give up an advantage in height, Kent Bazemore is super long and one of the more tenacious defenders in the league. He’ll keep up with Giannis in terms of quickness and has a knack for getting under his opponent’s skin.
Perhaps an even better matchup for the Greek Freak is Thabo Sefolosha. Once known as the LeBron stopper, Sefolosha is an insanely versatile defender who has started this season on top form. Currently second in the league in steals, Sefolosha will pick Giannis’ pocket if he’s even a little careless and is smart enough to draw him in to foul trouble too. If Giannis can have a big show in this one, it’ll be his most impressive performance of the year to date.
Ti: What’s your final prediction for how Wednesday’s game between the two teams will finish up?
Adam: Like the bulk of our staff, I predicted the outcome of this game days ago on our Win In 6 Podcast. Working under the assumption that Dwight Howard would be playing, I went with Hawks by eight.
With Howard potentially missing and the Hawks coming in on the second night of a back-to-back, this game is certainly winnable for Milwaukee. Still, I just think the Hawks have too much of an advantage in terms of experience over the Bucks. This is a battle-tested team who are currently second in the league in defensive rating.
One thing I do know for sure is that if the Bucks do pull this one out, we all might have to start looking at them in a much more serious light.