NBA Off-Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks
Record (48-34) Coming off of their franchise best record finish in the 2014-2015 season, the Atlanta Hawks came in to this year with high expectations. They had a new logo and a talented roster of returning All-Stars and had high expectations to repeat their success in a weak Eastern Conference. Despite clinching a playoff berth for the 9th straight season, the Hawks were once again unable to advance past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after defeating Boston in the 1st round. The Hawks are now falling into a dangerous category in the NBA; a consistent playoff team that has plateaued. Atlanta must now address an off-season conundrum of what to do with their roster. Coach Mike Budenholzer has proven to be able to find success with the current roster and this should not come as a surprise as Atlanta’s unselfish fundamental style of play is reflective of a disciple of Greg Popovich. The Hawks first priority must now answer whether they should resign key pieces or begin taking their lineup in a radical new direction. The question begins with 9 year veteran Al Horford who has played his entire career in Atlanta and is due to collect a max contract. The Hawks own Horford’s Bird rights meaning they can offer the big man an extra year and more money on a potential contract, but is Horford a true superstar? The obvious dilemma for the Hawks comes with the fact that Horford and Paul Millsap seemingly share the same position as a Center who can stretch the floor. Maxing out Horford would put pressure on other players in Atlanta’s lineup that also need addressing. One of those players is Kent Bazemore who has been on a team friendly contract for the last two years, but teams looking to sign a 3 and D player could easily throw money at Bazemore without Atlanta in control of his Bird Rights the same way the Raptors did with DeMarre Carroll last year. There is also a question at point guard. Jeff Teague currently holds the starting job for Atlanta, but is on his last year of his contract and backup Dennis Schroder has shown he is capable of handling the Hawks offensive load averaging 11 points and nearly 5 assists on +40% field goal percentage playing behind Teague. Rumors have already started between teams like the 76ers who are in need of a point guard, to acquire Jeff Teague in return for one of their skilled big-men in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. With Coach Mike Budenholzer acting as General Manager since the June of 2015’s departure of Daniel Ferry, he will need to address how to handle this off-season. Many players are up for new contracts, and the money must be spent wisely to take Atlanta out of their seemingly un-escapable consistent early playoff exits. The Atlanta Hawks continue to hold several future draft picks that will not pay off for a few more years including a first round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2018 that they received for dealing Adrien Payne, but in this year’s draft Atlanta sits at the 21st pick as well as holding two second round picks that could prove to be useful for their possible changing lineup. Several players could be exciting options in the second round for the Hawks including Michigan sharpshooter Caris LaVert and NC State’s explosive guard Cat Barber. Their first round pick will likely be determined by judging talent that falls to them at 21 like Kentucky’s PG Tyler Ullis or Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine. These selections all will come secondary to Coach Bud’s decisions with his active roster. Change is to be expected this year in Atlanta, but constant exits from the playoffs may have proven that some roster changes are needed if the Hawks hope to get over the hump in the Eastern Conference.
NBA Off-Season Previews
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics – Brooklyn Nets – New York Knicks – Philadelphia 76ers – Toronto Raptors Central Division: Chicago Bulls – Cleveland Cavaliers – Detroit Pistons – Indiana Pacers – Milwaukee Bucks Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks – Charlotte Hornets – Miami Heat – Orlando Magic – Washington Wizards Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks – Houston Rockets – Memphis Grizzlies – New Orleans Pelicans – San Antonio Spurs Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets – Minnesota Timberwolves – Oklahoma City Thunder – Portland Trail Blazers – Utah Jazz Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors – Los Angeles Clippers – Los Angeles Lakers – Phoenix Suns – Sacramento Kings