The Atlanta Hawks tumultuous offseason and the (yawn) preseason is behind us and now it's time to get back on the court, for reals now. The Peachtree Hoops staff is bursting with fervor and excitement as Opening Night moves ever closer, so we wanted to share our thoughts about what will happen this season to the Good Guys.
As my man Tone Loc always (somewhat) sang, "Let's do it."
What is the one thing you are most sure is going to happen regarding the Atlanta Hawks this season?
(Jason Walker) Luckier with health. This team has not been charmed when it comes to the games missed due to injury department, so this has to regress to the mean at some point, right? Right?
(Brad Rowland) Kyle Korver will be Kyle Korver. It is a great luxury to have the best shooter on the planet on the wing, and Korver has looked every bit the part in the preseason. He may not replicate the absurdity of leading the league with 47.2% from three and 65.3% true shooting, but he'll be in the top five in both categories as the premiere floor spacer in the game.
(Kris Willis) Mike Budenholzer will garner plenty of respect and will be in the running for the NBA's Coach of the Year award by season's end.
(Patrick Laney aka RedRev) Atlanta will finish in top two in assists per game for third season in a row. This is the most sure thing independent of how injuries effect the team.
(Josh Lane aka Throw) We are going to see a lot of different combinations and lineups on the floor. This team is deep and before I thought John Jenkins would be the last man off the bench. With how well he has looked, he might be put in the mix at some point simply for his scoring. Now its looking like Adreian Payne might have a tough time finding minutes, which is a great problem to have at the moment. When he gets up to speed I expect great things.
(Daniel Christian) The Hawks are going to be better defensively than they were last season, especially on the perimeter. With the additions of Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore, Atlanta added athletic defensive depth. Between those two, Dennis Schroder, and DeMarre Carroll they have the back-court length to prevent opposing perimeter players from getting clean looks.
What is the one thing you fear the most regarding the Atlanta Hawks this season?
(JW) That I'm wrong about #1.
(BR) The "right" answer is probably injuries, but at the risk of being "cute", I'll go with Jeff Teague peaking as a player. Teague was just fine last season when he averaged 16.5 points and 6.7 assists per game, but he was just slightly above average when examining advanced metrics, and his jump shot failed him consistently. Teague is the lone member of the starting lineup with a decent amount of "upside", but if he can't make a significant jump in year two under Bud, it may be time to look elsewhere.
(KW) That DeMarre Carroll regresses in his second year as a starter. Carroll put up career best numbers in his first season in Atlanta in what was his first real opportunity for consistent playing time. The Hawks are deeper this season behind Carroll but still need him to perform at a high level defensively while knocking down shots from the perimeter at a consistent rate.
(PL) Jeff Teague losing his confidence on his perimeter shot. The floor for Atlanta's season is very high when Teague is a threat from outside.
(JL) Outside of another Horford Pectoral tear or another string of injuries like last season, I would say if Jeff lost his aggressiveness and his outside shot. When Jeff got things going later in the season the team seemed to take another step.
(DC) That injuries will derail the team in the same fashion they did last year. Horford has essentially missed two of the last three seasons, so we might still see the lingering effects of that to start the season. Some wear and tear throughout is inevitable, but what happened to the Hawks midseason of last year was catastrophic. Injuries are always such a wild card and the Hawks didn't exactly get the luck of the draw last season.
Which will be the biggest surprise to fans?
(JW) The depth of the team. This maybe the deepest Hawks team since the Fratello era.
(BR) Mike Muscala. He isn't a household name or a former first round pick, but Muscala was the best player on the team in Las Vegas, and he has continued to impress this preseason when given the opportunity. Muscala may not begin the year in the rotation, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him finish there, and he will prove that he is a real NBA player.
(KW) That when healthy this is a really good team. The Hawks are being considered a .500 team by many which is essentially what they were last season without Al Horford. The team has a year of Budenholzer's system under their belts and Horford is back which means Atlanta should be in the thick of things in the Southeast Division.
(PL) Thabo Sefolosha was the most underrated player on the Thunder during their climb up the Western Conference standings in recent years. He had a terrible three-month stretch last season, but looks in preseason to be ready to make a significant difference for the Atlanta bench.
(JL) I thing the biggest surprise to fans will be despite not picking up a big name in free agency, our unknown players that have been picked up will look like a steal come the end of the year. Before many thought (including writers) that Demarre Carroll would should never be on the floor and would be nothing more than a bottom of the bench player on a championship team. I am mentally preparing for more players that were seen as castoffs (Bazemore and Sefolosha last year) will look better when playing in this system.
(DC) The return of John Jenkins. There were relatively high expectations for him after his rookie season, but most seemed to forget about his existence after pestering back injuries. Jenkins has the shooting ability to be a featured part of Budenholzer's offense and might get some decent run.
The player most likely to be traded this season is?
(JW) Paul Millsap. I don't think he'll be traded, but he has a lot of value, is at the end of a contract and could be the one guy who wouldn't take offense to being a rental somewhere and still come back to the Hawks in the offseason.
(BR) This is a very tough one, simply because I don't really foresee a trade happening, especially when the head coach is also the GM. However, with a gun to my head, I would say Paul Millsap. Millsap currently has an expiring contract, and his salary is likely to take a major jump next season. His value should be quite high around the league, and if the organization decides to play for the future, he could be moved for younger assets and/or picks. Let me preface all of this by saying that I don't see this happening.
(KW) Is "no one" an acceptable answer? The expiring contract doesn't hold as much value in recent years and the last two trade deadlines have been duds in terms of activity. I think the Hawks like their roster and will likely stand pat unless they get a can't miss opportunity at an upgrade.
(PL) If Dennis Schroder shows that he is ready to be the backup point guard by January, Shelvin Mack becomes the most likely player to be dealt as teams are often looking for point guards near the trade deadline.
(JL) Either Shelvin Mack or Dennis Schröder. If Dennis can continue to improve and Shelvin can keep his solid play then we have 3 quality point guards on the roster and unfortunately all should receive minutes. Unfortunately one will be the odd man out on many nights.
(DC) Either Paul Millsap or Dennis Schroder. Millsap because he's at a great value and a team might take a flyer on him for the remainder of a season. Schroder because there seemed to be some interest in him this summer around draft time. If he shows even marginal improvement, I think some teams might be willing to part with a pick for him.
Look for Part 2 to drop later today with our prediction of how many games the Hawks will win in 2015.