The Atlanta Hawks wrapped up the 2016-17 preseason Thursday night with a 97-81 win over the Chicago Bulls. While it is difficult to draw a lot of conclusions from a preseason that saw the regulars play together twice, we are going to take a closer look at the players that performed well and those that didn’t.
Howard’s homecoming couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. He has the full support of the fanbase and looked spry and capable on the court. Howard appeared in five preseason games averaging 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in 24.3 minutes of action. Howard’s presence alone has improved the Hawks rebounding and they finished sixth in the league in rebounds per game during the preseason averaging 47.7 per game.
There are concerns. After spending the offseason working on his shooting stroke, Howard made just 15 of 33 free throw attempts. He was also tagged for 22 personal fouls in those five games. Still, Howard continues to say and do all of the right things and his transition to the face of the franchise couldn’t have gone much better.
After a healthy offseason, Kyle Korver looked more like the Korver of old this preseason. He appeared in five games averaging 10.2 points and shooting a crisp 58.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.
While Korver’s shooting was a bright spot, Atlanta’s as a whole was not. The Hawks converted just 31.4 percent of their three-point attempts and that was with Korver’s blistering start.
When training camp opened, Mike Muscala looked like he could have been on his way out. However, it became clear at the team’s media day that he was in better shape in terms of his roster spot than it appeared.
Still Muscala backed up his play on the court and looks like he will enter the regular season with his first real chance for consistent playing time. Muscala opened the preseason in the starting lineup in place of Paul Millsap and performed well averaging 7.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 56 percent from the field.
Delaney came to camp a bit of an unknown quantity but capitalized on his opportunity. He averaged 6.7 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds in six preseason games. His shooting was up and down but that is something that will likely improve once he finds his place in the team’s offense. He turned the ball over just five times the entire preseason and that is something that will earn him trust with the coaching staff.
Many penciled Jack in for a major role with the Hawks after he was signed this summer. However, Jack was slow to progress in his recovery from last season’s ACL injury and Atlanta decided to cut bait.
While Tiago Splitter’s injury may have helped influence the decision, Jack never had a clear cut path to regular playing time. Malcolm Delaney was a player that Atlanta’s front office had kept tabs on for several years and he was going to have to really struggle for Jack to pass him in the rotation.
Splitter just hasn’t been able to escape the injury bug and will miss the start of the season thanks to a hamstring injury. He didn’t make an appearance in the preseason and that comes on the heels of having missed the majority of last season due to hip surgery.
When healthy, Splitter is still a capable big man that would slot in well behind Howard as the back up center. However, he hasn’t been healthy for any stretch in a long time and at this point may not be able to be counted on.
Scott battled a sore knee through the early part of camp and didn’t play particularly well when he returned to the court. He appeared in four preseason games averaging 4.0 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting just 27 percent from the field.
Scott is entering the final year of his contract and may open the season behind Mike Muscala in the team’s rotation. The knee was clearly a factor and Scott should be able to regain his form once he gets fully healthy. Still it is certainly not the way that he wanted to start the season.