Earlier in the season, some of the writers here at Peachtree Hoops gave their predictions of what would happen this season a Roundtable discussion. With the recent elimination to the Hawks, we have comeback together to share some of their thoughts on the 2013-2014 season.
1) Who or what was the biggest surprise of the season?
Jason Walker: Mike Scott's development into a full-on stretch four and making an impact with so many threes was very surprising considering he was not a lock for the roster at all.
Kris Willis: Easily Paul Millsap. When he signed over the summer we knew that the Hawks were getting a solid all-around player. He got to Atlanta, began knocking down threes and emerged as the team's leader after Horford went down. He made his first trip to the All-Star Game and was the bargain signing of the offseason.
Throw: Biggest surprise to me was the emergence of Shelvin Mack on the bench. Last year I saw him as a liability that wasn't strong as a perimeter defender and also tended to over dribble then on the offensive end. In fact, if you go back in our archive I believe I made mention of how I would prefer to have Royal Ivey on the team as the final guard. That said, Shelvin went from being on the cut list to being a very solid backup for this team.
Chase Thomas: It would probably be how quickly the roster bought in to Mike Budenholzer's scheme and flourished. Mike Scott attempted one 3-pointer last season but turned into a 3-point assassin this season. It was surprising, but in a good way.
RedRev: Pero Antic. It was a surprise that the Macedonian was able to contribute in the rotation, but I remain shocked that he became an adequate starter prior to his disappointing playoff performance.
Brad Rowland: Shelvin Mack. I had Shelvin firmly on the cut line in the pre-season, and never imagined a scenario in which he would become a better-than-average backup point guard in the NBA. Mack was also the best defensive player of all the small guards this season, and if he can uptick in his shooting rates next season (wherever he lands), he could be a quality backup or a fringe starter for a long while.
Daniel Christian: I'll say Mike Scott's ascension to role player status, if only because I firmly believed in a few other things that others might label as surprises to them. For example, I firmly believed Budenholzer would be a great fit, that DeMarre would have a career year, and that Millsap would work with Horford. All of those things, to some degree, I expected. Even after summer Mike Scott's impressive summer league though, I just did not think he would get significant minutes for this team. Sure, injuries in the front court may have forced Coach Bud's hand a little, but Scott, on the whole, was a success story that I didn't see coming.
2) Who or what was the biggest disappointment of the season?
Jason: No question it was seeing Al Horford, in the midst of his best season and almost assuredly his third All-Star nod, injuring his pectoral muscle and ending his season prematurely. Every subsequent disappointment that arose from the Hawks' season could be traced back to that moment.
Kris: For me it was John Jenkins because of the lost season due to his back injury. He was never healthy and thus was unable to make any progress in his second season. The Hawks had a crowded backcourt and it would have been interesting to see where a healthy Jenkins would have fit.
Throw: Overall it has to be the injuries. I still wonder how different our season would have been if Ayon didn't get hurt in pre-season, Jenkins wasn't lost for the season, Horford not going down in December, and finally that string of injuries after the All-Star weekend.
Chase: Probably Al Horford going down for the season.
RedRev: Al Horford's pectoral muscle.
Brad: Aside from the Al Horford injury, I'll assign this to Lou Williams. Lou garnered my lowest "grade" this season, and despite the fact that he improved greatly as the season went along, he was the lone player on the team who noticeably underperformed against expectations. It is a very positive thing that the Hawks don't have an "obvious" candidate here, and that's something to take solace in moving forward.
Daniel: Horford's injury was easily the biggest disappointment of the season. With a healthy Horford, I think the Hawks grab the three seed in the Eastern Conference-- and even if they were to end up with the four or five seed, they'd have had a very realistic shot at making the Conference Finals. Equally as disappointing to me, however, and this may be due to unfair expectations heaped on his young shoulders, was Dennis Schröder's inability to crack the rotation. There were rave reviews out of the draft and through the brief glimpse of him we had in Summer League, it looked like some of his skills were NBA ready. I'm looking forward to his continued growth over the next few seasons.
3) Which player made the most improvement during the course of the season?
Jason: Aside from Scott, who I noted in the previous question, Shelvin Mack was another who developed into a solid role player as a backup PG. Last season, Mack didn't have much consistency to his game, but he became so dependable he was hard to leave out of the rotation at any point after he played his way into it.
Kris: Lou Williams began the season on the sidelines while recovering from last season's ACL injury. He struggled with his return to the court and had a string of DNP-CD's during the second half. Once he found his way back to the court his game began to improve and he slowly started to resemble the player we knew before he suffered the knee injury.
Throw: Mike Scott easily makes my most improved player list. Mike Scott went from being a undersized defensive liability at power forward that barely made the roster to one of the main scorers off the bench who also runs the floor the best out of any big on the team. Mike can only improve to from here seeing as a he added the three point shot to his arsenal over last summer.
Chase: DeMarre Carroll and/or Mike Scott.
RedRev: Jeff 3GUE! He is still not where I long for him to be as a distributor, but his quickness and finishing ability become lethal when his outside shot is falling. Nothing was a bigger factor in Atlanta's improved play late in the season than his shot improving each month of 2014.
Brad: To be fair, the answer may be Mike Muscala, but because he was coming from a very low place on arrival, I'll go with Lou Williams. Following the All-Star break, Williams bounced back with a 6% improvement in his field goal percentage, and his free throw rate doubled from the first half of the year. Frankly, there were shades of the "old" Lou down the stretch, and that is exceedingly encouraging given how lackluster he was early in the year.
Daniel: Paul Millsap, if only because he was forced to step up and take the reins after Horford went down. He did that, made an all star team, and was as consistent as consistent can be.
4) Due to popular demand, who was your X-factor for the 2013-2014 season?
Jason: The team rises and falls on Jeff Teague and he is still an unknown from game to game. His floor is higher nightly, but when he can play at his highest levels, the team is capable of beating anybody. Which Teague you get from night to night is still the Hawks biggest X-Factor.
Kris: DeMarre Carroll. Was an afterthought signing and couldn't have worked out any better. He was the one player that the Hawks could least afford to be without.
Throw: C'mon you know my answer, it's DeMarre Carroll and it hasn't changed since the beginning of the season.
Chase: Jeff Teague.
RedRev: Kyle Korver's defense. He went from a capable team defender to a guy who stoned Lance Stephenson so many times in playoffs that Lance quit pressuring him because of all the money Kyle was taking out of his pocket.
Brad: DeMarre Carroll. There is a reason that the Hawks finished 1-8 in games where Carroll was unavailable, and without him, the team was rudderless. Carroll was the best perimeter defender on the roster for the entirety of the year, and he drew the defensive assignment against the league's best each and every night. More impressively? He transitioned from a career bench player to a 32-minute per game starter without taking a hit in production, and DeMarre was incredible this year.
Daniel: Jeff Teague is always this team's X-factor. When Teague plays well, the Hawks are very tough to beat, but we've seen him hit ugly and prolonged slumps just about every season. Because Teague's too easy of an answer, I'll go with DeMarre Carroll. Without Carroll's perimeter defense, there's no telling where this team would be. The Hawks' ability to stick him on the opposing team's premier wing and his ability to not get torched is what kept Atlanta afloat all season. The few games Carroll missed with injury often got ugly.
5) Who is your Atlanta Hawks 2013-2014 MVP?
Jason: After Horford went down in what would surely been his best season, Paul Millsap stepped up and became the go-to guy for the Hawks. He displayed a box score stuffing that we thought the Hawks might miss after Josh Smith left, but Millsap did that and then some, including stepping into Horford's assumed place on the All-Star team.
Seems like an omission to not include something on Kyle Korver here, though, as the Hawks were lost offensively without the Human Offensive Stirring Stick there to wrap the offense around. His streak, epic as any streak has been for the Hawks, was something Hawks fans could be very proud of and the won-loss record suffered when he wasn't available. He's a great asset to the team and would've been MVP if not for Millsap.
Kris: I could make a case that Jeff Teague or DeMarre Carroll were the team's most important players but I have to go with Millsap. He came in and exceeded virtually every expectation placed on him. He stepped up in Al Horford's absence and exhibited the competitive nature that the coaching staff preached from Day 1. He was a breath of fresh air for the franchise in comparison to year's past.
Throw: No one the team has stepped up more since the Horford injury than Paul Millsap. When he was signed during the summer, I knew that he was good but I had no idea that he was this versatile. I can't tell you how many times this season how many times I was worried how we would score when Millsap was not on the floor whether it came from his midrange jumpers or his ability to take a man off the dribble and either finish or get to the line. Hey, I guess this explains why he made it to his first All-Star game this past year.
Chase: Paul Millsap.
RedRev: Paul Millsap. He was not just one of the best NBA acquisitions of the 2013 off-season, but one of the best in the last decade. Already a player known for a great motor, Trillsap improved defensive skill and outside shot earned him an All-Star bid.
Brad: It has to be Paul Millsap. To be honest, I thought about getting "cute" and going with DeMarre Carroll due to the combination of poor performance with him out of the lineup and his stellar defensive impact, but Millsap was the best player after Horford went down and he is deserving. Millsap led the team in Win Shares, he topped everyone aside from Horford in PER and WS/48 and his per-game averages of 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game were All-Star worthy. It will be interesting to see how his production is affected during a full season with Al available, but Paul Millsap is the MVP.
Daniel: Paul Millsap, mainly for the reasons mentioned in Question 3. He was a consistent force every night and was honestly, after years of Josh Smith, a breath of fresh air-- no enigmatic characteristics, no ill-advised upchucks from the perimeter-- everything smooth and collected, all within the flow of the offense. Part of that can be attributed to Budenholzer (I'll give him the Co-MVP), but most of it should be attributed to Millsap as a more level-headed player.