After matching the Bucks' offer sheet on Jeff Teague and drafting Dennis Schröder with the 17th pick in the draft, the Atlanta Hawks appear to have set up a strong point guard tandem for the future. Schröder's impressive play in Summer League appears to have solidified his place as the clear back-up point guard heading into training camp.
The third point guard on the roster is Shelvin Mack, who signed a non-guaranteed contract near the end of last season for the minimum. Mack is also on the Hawks Summer League roster, but is not having as good of a week as his rookie teammate is. Mack is averaging 6.5 points and 2.8 assists per game on 38.5% shooting (25% from three) in 18.3 minutes per game. Stats don't tell the whole story, or really that much of the story, when it comes to Summer League, but there has been a difference in the effectiveness of the team when Schröder has played compared to Mack.
Talking with Mack and Hawks GM Danny Ferry, there appears to be a role on the Hawks for Shelvin that both seem to think he can fill.
"We've talked to him and his agent, and with us drafting a point guard and our roster being balanced the way it is, we are communicating with him. There is an opportunity for good players to be here, and you find a way to make that happen, if you need to."
In talking with Shelvin prior to their final Summer League game against the Sacramento Kings, Mack appeared confident that he had a place on the team, despite the actions of the Hawks that offseason.
"We really haven't gotten to [discussing my role], but there are three point guards on the team and every team has that. I just have to come in and compete. Wherever they need me, I'll be happy with that as long as I'm a Hawk. You know, Teague will be the starting point guard, and me and Dennis are going to push Teague to get better and compete for the back-up position."
Mack also seemed unconcerned with any poor performances in Summer League, knowing that he has showcased his talents in the NBA.
"I've just trying to play my game. You know, I've played in the NBA for two years and teams know what I can do. Just trying to come down, make the right plays, and try to do the stuff that will help the team win. Everyone knows Summer League is different from the season, so just trying to maintain and get better."
As to where Mack feels he is in learning the new offense, Mack thought he was doing well with it and seemed to be grasping the basic concepts.
"I'm becoming very comfortable with [the new offense]. You know, I'm learning that the point guard does a lot without the basketball, watching Tony Parker. It's a great offense. Not a lot of standing around, so once everyone's on the same page, everyone's going to be moving together and it's going to be hard to guard."
Speaking with Mack made it clear that he is confident that there is a place for him on the Hawks roster, and if nothing else, an NBA roster should the Hawks go in a different direction. Mack's confident in both his abilities and the body of work that he has put together over his first two years in the NBA. He is not putting too much stock into these Summer League outings, choosing instead to look at them as opportunities to improve, but not the final say on his talents or abilities.
From the Hawks perspective, it appears there is a possible place for Mack on the team. Mack would round-out a very solid point guard rotation of Teague, Schröder, and Mack, which would be one of the deeper rotations in the league. Add in the shooting guard rotation of Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, John Jenkins, and Jared Cunningham and the Hawks appear to be well set in the backcourt.
The question mark will be whether the Hawks are willing to carry seven guards on the roster. If not, the decision would come down to Mack or Cunningham for that final spot on the roster. From an on-court perspective, Mack appears to be a better fit. He is a quality ball-handler and was above average as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, a staple of the Budenholzer's offense, last year at 0.98 PPP on 51.1% shooting. Cunningham's play is like Lou Williams, and his inclusion over Mack on the roster would be somewhat redundant.
However, as we all know, in the NBA money talks. Cunningham, acquired on draft night from the Mavericks, was a first-round draft pick last season, meaning this year's salary is fully guaranteed. Mack is on the aforementioned non-guaranteed minimum contract, which means releasing him would not cost the Hawks the money it would to release Cunningham. Releasing Mack would likely be a cost-cutting maneuver if Atlanta decides to only keep six guards.
The Hawks still have roster moves to make this offseason, and, as Ferry told me earlier in the week, the plan is to bring in another big man and a wing player. With the way the current roster is set up, if they add one more big and one more wing, the Hawks would have 13 players on the roster, with decisions to come on Lucas Nogueira and Mike Muscala. Last season, Atlanta carried 13 or 14 players for the majority of the year, because Ferry likes to keep some roster flexibility to take on more players in trades. With the plans Ferry has for the roster, it appears that Mack has a safe spot on the roster...for now.