We continue our season prediction series with a look at who is the X-Factor for this year’s version of the Atlanta Hawks.
Who is the X-Factor for this Atlanta Hawks team?
Phil Naessens: Mike Budenholzer. He’s going to have to keep Howard happy otherwise that dressing room is going to be a miserable place to be.
Kris Willis: Kent Bazemore enjoyed a breakout season last year but the Hawks have to hope that he can take another step forward after signing him to a 4-year, $70 million dollar deal over the summer. Bazemore did everything that was asked of him but appeared to wear down a bit in the second half. He will be relied on heavily, but a step backwards in the shooting department could be disastrous for Atlanta.
Brad Rowland: Dwight Howard. This is a photo finish between Howard and Schröder, but the tiebreaker goes to Dwight because of the overall schematic changes that he forces. Budenholzer must tweak both his offense and defense around a completely different entity in the middle and it has the potential to go quite poorly. The ceiling is also high, for what it’s worth, but Howard’s performance will be key to everything this team does in 2016-2017.
Glen Willis: Dwight Howard. If he actually remains committed across the full season to doing things that helps a team win games, they will have a pretty successful season. If he does not, it is going to be a long, painful season for Hawks fans.
Thomas Jenkins: This is a fascinating question, because Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder are both valid answers. I’ll go with Schroder, since he could potentially be Atlanta’s starting point guard for many years. His inconsistency could cripple this team if it spirals out of control, but he also has the athleticism and overall skill level to be an effective starter. There are also only two point guards on the roster at the time of this writing, making Schroder’s performance this year even more important.
Chris Herbert: Dwight Howard, specifically his attitude and composure. A happy and locked in Dwight is a talented and potentially dominant player. An unhappy and petulant Dwight can divide a locker room and put this team into a tailspin.
Josh Lane: Dennis just because we are now relying on him to make everyone happy and run the team. This includes making the big free agent acquisition happy by getting him the ball where he wants it.
Jason Walker: The point guard is always the X -- his ups and down, if the position is leaned up for tempo and getting guys into the right play, which Bud’s offense does, control the ebb/flow of the entire team. If Dennis is down, this team will be down, no matter how Paul or Dwight play.
Harry Lyles Jr.: Dennis Schroder. The highs and lows at the point guard position last season was troublesome, and when you’re essentially the quarterback of the offense, it’s harder for everybody else to get into a rhythm when there’s never any consistency there.
Tyler Duke: It’s Schroder. We’ve all seen how different he can come out from game to game, and as the starting point guard this season, the Hawks can’t afford too many of his bad games.