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Atlanta Hawks 2016 player review: Walter Tavares

Walter Tavares rode the D-League train exclusively during his rookie season but can he make an impact for the Hawks in 2017?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks rookie center Walter "Edy" Tavares spent most of the 2016 season looking on from the bench or in the D-League but showed that he could eventually play a part in Atlanta.

Tavares appeared in just 11 games for the Hawks with most coming early in the season. He saw extended playing time through a variety of stints in the D-League mostly with the Austin Spurs. There he showed some of the upside that the Hawks were looking for averaging 9.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 29 games.

When you look at Tavares, the first thing that jumps off the table is his massive size. At 7-3 with a long wingspan, he projects as a natural rim protector. He stayed close to the basket offensively and converted on 65 percent of his field goal attempts. He is a very good free throw shooter for a player his size converting 71 percent of his attempts in the D-League.

For Tavares, it is mostly about improving his body, his awareness and his mobility. He is pretty agile for a player of his size however, he struggled at times to defend smaller players in the pick and roll. Today's NBA requires its big men to be able to float out to the perimeter and then recover in time to shut off the paint. Teams repeatedly tried to put Tavares in these situations and that was likely a factor in his minutes dropping during the D-League Playoffs.

Tavares will benefit greatly from a full off season of development with the Hawks. He will likely suit up again for the team's Summer League entry and look to build some momentum heading into training camp.

Tavares is under contract through 2018 with the final season non-guaranteed. His relatively low salary allows Atlanta to be patient but they will likely be looking for him to make strides in his second season. He would be due a small qualifying offer in 2019 when he would become a restricted free agent.

Best case scenario for Tavares is that he shows progress and becomes a realistic rotation option for the Hawks in 2018. Match ups against certain teams will always be an issue, but for a team lacking size, Tavares would be a big option. Tavares has limited basketball experience but at 24 years of age, the development clock is already ticking.

Due to those factors, the 2017 season is shaping up to be a big one for Tavares