The NBA season is almost upon us. The preseason, (which somehow feels too long after just seven games) has ended, leaving fans and analysts with several games’ worth of material to speculate on before the regular season begins.
For the Atlanta Hawks, there are still several unanswered questions going into the regular season. The team has played well this preseason — especially when all the starters were on the floor — but there are still several uncertainties that need to be addressed.
First of all, Dwight Howard’s fit with the Hawks is still not proven. Howard has looked fantastic at stretches this preseason (although mostly against backups), but has also struggled with passing and getting into foul trouble. Most of his fouls have come as a result of being a step too slow on following a player, and could be a sign of diminished athleticism.
To be fair, these fouls could be also nothing more than a sign of general preseason apathy. But if Howard still struggles to catch up to his opponents when the regular season starts, and continues to foul at a high rate, he could quickly become a defensive liability.
From a more team-wide perspective, there are also concerns about aging and health that could plague the team. In terms of age, most of the starters are over 30, and their durability over a full, 82-game season shouldn’t be assumed. This is a question that no preseason performance can answer, though, and Hawks fans can only hope for the best right now.
The Hawks (with the exception of Tiago Splitter) have stayed reasonably healthy this preseason. While Splitter’s absence is a fairly important one, the rest of the team (Millsap, most importantly) has looked good from an injury standpoint. Whether or not this continues could determine how many games the Hawks win this year. Their starting five can compete with most teams as currently constructed, but multiple injuries would derail this pretty quickly.
Finally, Tim Hardaway Jr.’s status on the team is fairly uncertain. He played much better near the end of the preseason, but was a truly abysmal shooter during the first few games. This performance comes with the obvious preseason caveat, but Hardaway’s up-and-down play hardly inspires lasting confidence from a player who has always been inconsistent.
Overall, the Atlanta Hawks have had a pretty good preseason. The team is (mostly) healthy, and the starting five has looked very good, even if they mostly played against backups. It’s important to remember that there are still several uncertainties facing this team right now though, and that the answers to these questions could determine the final record.