I've been very hard on Mike Scott.
Well, in truth, I have a tortured relationship with the now 27-year-old forward, and one that goes back to his days as a star at Virginia. To get in the way-back machine for a moment, I absolutely loved Mike Scott during his time at UVA, to the point where I openly caped for him as a Wooden Award candidate during his final college season and opined that the Atlanta Hawks should invest in him as a draft pick.
Fast-forward a few years, and Scott's play has been incredibly frustrating at times. He flashes the high-end offensive ability that made him a very nice second-round investment, but for much of his career, Scott has struggled to find consistency as a shooter and, in short, he has been a woeful defender from the first moment he stepped on an NBA court.
Then, Mike Scott was arrested at the end of July for drug possession, and in that moment, he went from a "nice second round pick" to a player that many believed would be cut by the Hawks. While his legal process is still pending, Atlanta chose to keep Scott on the roster (potentially because there wasn't a market for him in trade), and that decision has actually paid dividends this season.
Coming into the 2015-2016 campaign, Scott was a career 32.6% three-point shooter (on nearly 400 attempts) and the Hawks were, on the whole much better when he was off the court than when he was on it. However, this season has seen something of a transformation for the now-embattled forward.
There were flashes that Scott could (finally) emerge as a consistent three-point threat when he made 40% of his attempts before the All-Star break in 2014-2015, but after a late-season slump ended that talk, he has picked up where he left off this season. Scott is converting a career best 40.9% from three-point distance to aid in compiling a 60.7% true shooting mark, and given where his defense has always been, that is the type of offensive efficiency needed to make Scott a functional NBA rotation player.
With those positive steps offensively and a (modest) improvement on the other end, the Hawks have been quite good when Mike Scott plays in 2015-2016. Atlanta has posted a stellar +6.9 net rating in Scott's 648 minutes of court time this year, and while there is definitely some noise in that figure given the preposterous 93.9 (!) defensive rating, it remains a good sign that Mike Budenholzer's team has functioned well with Scott in the lineup.
Throughout the year (and prior to it), I have opined that Scott's minutes should go to Mike Muscala and, in truth, I still believe that to be the case. However, there is a path to positive impact for Mike Scott, and it involves producing at the rate that he is currently displaying on the offensive end.
Quietly, the Atlanta Hawks will have yet another decision to make after this season, as the team holds an option to pay Scott $3.33 million for the 2016-2017 season. It must be stated (and emphasized) that his legal proceedings might drive this decision, as we simply don't know what type of penance could be paid and how the organization will react to that. However, a $3.33 million option that once appeared unlikely to be exercised now seems quite reasonable in the rising salary cap environment and, given his play this season, Mike Scott could be a bargain at that cap number in a specific role.
This isn't quite a mea culpa for Mike Scott, as he remains an exceedingly flawed player that is vastly overrated by some fans. However, it is totally fair to suggest that he has been a functional rotation player in 2015-2016, and that is all he needs to be for $3.33 million.