The Atlanta Hawks are in Las Vegas.
While the rest of the world (and maybe even the team) views Las Vegas as America's Playground, the Hawks have business to address over the next ten days, as the 2015 edition of the Las Vegas Summer League gets underway on Friday. With that in mind, it is time to take a glance at what you can expect from the team during their run in the desert. Let's get to it.
Obviously, the biggest thing (at least for the fans) is how they can consume these games. Here's a quick look at the schedule as we know it:
- Friday, July 10 - 8:00 pm ET - Atlanta vs. Denver (online only)
- Sunday, July 12 - 8:30 pm ET - Atlanta vs. Golden State (NBA-TV)
- Monday, July 13 - 6:00 pm ET - Atlanta vs. D-League Select (online only)
There are exactly two players on the Las Vegas squad that we know will be factors in the immediate future for the Atlanta Hawks, and they are Walter "Edy" Tavares and Mike Muscala.
Tavares recently agreed to a multi-year contract to come to the United States, and at 7-foot-3 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, it is easy to see why he is already a fan favorite. Expectations should be tempered a bit for his rookie year based on the fact that he is raw from a skill perspective and blocked by the likes of Al Horford, Tiago Splitter and even Muscala, but the upside (especially on defense) is real for Tavares, and it will be fun to monitor his development.
In the case of Muscala, he is already ingratiated with the organization. The 24-year-old big man appeared in 40 games (8 starts) during the 2014-2015 season, and he impressed with an 18.0 PER in 12.6 minutes per game. Muscala is expected to take on more responsibility with Pero Antic out the door and Elton Brand likely heading to retirement, and his skill and versatility will be an asset up front. It was a mild surprise (at least to me) that the Hawks chose to deploy him in Las Vegas, but he is unquestionably the best NBA player on this roster, at least at the moment.
Atlanta's roster for Las Vegas includes two brothers of current Hawks players in the form of Jon Horford and Abraham Millsap. Horford spent the majority of his college career at Michigan, where he was a strong role player on a team that reached the NCAA Championship Game in 2013. The 6-foot-10 big man transferred to Florida (his brother's alma mater) prior to his final season in college, and Horford averaged 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game during the 2014-2015 season.
As for Millsap, the 6-foot-4 guard appeared for the Hawks last summer in Las Vegas, though he played a small role in the festivities. He played collegiately at Tennessee State, but in truth, he is a fringe NBA prospect by any measure, and it is unknown what kind of contribution he can make this week. In fairness, Horford is also seen as something of an off-the-radar prospect, though his physical tools and high-major pedigree make him mildly intriguing.
The Guys You Recognize
While the only "locks" for the future are Tavares and Muscala, there are a number of players that fans may recognize, headlined by 2014 second-round pick Lamar Patterson. The former Pittsburgh swingman had a strong season overseas after being stashed by the Hawks, and he is present in Las Vegas for a second consecutive year. Patterson's athletic limited upside is limited, which is easily the biggest knock on his NBA game, but he is strong and skilled, and we should see a great deal of him on the floor over the next 10 days.
Elsewhere, the Hawks tabbed a number of high-major "rookies". Arizona's Brandon Ashley, Iowa State's DeAndre Kane and Nebraska's Terran Petteway are the most recognizable names, though Kane actually finished his college career a year ago before playing overseas during the 2014-2015 campaign. Ashley possesses the highest upside of the trio, and at point during his Arizona career, he was seen as a potential first-round pick before battling injury and motor concerns.
The high-end of the roster (in terms of notoriety) is rounded out by Stephen Holt and Greg Smith. Holt became a fan favorite last summer while playing for the Hawks in Las Vegas, and the former St. Mary's guard looks every bit like an NBA player. He will likely play some point guard for Atlanta this week, based on roster construction, but at 6-foot-4, he is a skilled combo guard with an NBA-ready jump shot. Look for him to contribute in a big way.
Smith is the lone NBA veteran (aside from Muscala) on the team, with 131 NBA games on his profile with the Rockets and Mavericks. The 6-foot-10 Smith has shown the propensity to become a strong rebounder in the NBA, and at the age of 24, he is still a legitimate NBA prospect. Unfortunately for Smith, the Hawks could be "capped" in terms of roster spots in the frontcourt, but it will be interesting to see how much time he is allotted, especially alongside Tavares or Muscala.
To add to this group, the Hawks added former Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III to the roster within the last 24 hours. The 21-year-old is certainly an NBA-level athlete at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, but he struggled mightily in 35 games with the Wolves and Sixers last season, and there is a question about skill development. Still, Robinson III has a pedigree and potential upside if he can fix a jump shot that could be broken.
The roster comes to a close with Tomas Bellas (who played with Edy Tavares in Europe), Josh Davis, Trey McKinney-Jones, Mike Moser and Elston Turner.
Bellas is the lone "point guard" on the entire 15-man roster, lending credence to the assumption that Holt will see time at the 1. He is no young pup at the age of 28, but Bellas has extended experience at some of the highest levels of European basketball. Alongside him in the backcourt comes McKinney-Jones and Turner, who both profile as shooting guards. McKinney-Jones is 24 years old after spending two seasons in the NBDL, but he performed well at Miami during his college career (after a transfer from UMKC) and there is talent there. Turner is now 25 after two seasons abroad in his own right, and he averaged nearly 18 points per game during his final campaign at Texas A&M.
Moser and Davis are both interesting athletes. The former spent time at UCLA, Oregon and UNLV (yes, all 3) during his college career, and he boasts big-time length with a 7-foot wingspan. Davis spent last season with the Austin Toros in the D-League, and he averaged more than 13 points and 10 rebounds per game. D-League stats are often skewed based on system, but he could be a player that flies under the radar this week.
It is important not to overreact to Las Vegas Summer League action, but in the same breath, it is fun to see players who could make an impact for the Atlanta Hawks down the line. We will take you through the festivities with live reporting on the ground in Vegas, and be sure to check in daily for all the latest.