The Atlanta Hawks made quite a splash this summer in re-signing Kent Bazemore while also bringing Dwight Howard home. The heavy lifting in free agency appears to be over although a trade is always possible. However, here is a look at the depth chart as things stand currently.
Dennis Schröder, Malcolm Delaney, Jarrett Jack
The point guard position is pivotal for the Atlanta Hawks and that may be even more true next season with Dennis Schröder replacing the departed Jeff Teague as the team's starter. Schröder has experienced some highs and lows over his first three seasons with Atlanta, but the future is now and the Hawks need him to take another step forward in his development.
Schröder should be an upgrade defensively but the Hawks will sacrifice some shooting. While Dennis has shown his fearlessness over the last two seasons, that, at least at times, has worked against him. For Schröder, the answer isn’t to always go faster and he will need to work on his recognition and become the leader that the team needs him to be.
Atlanta's signing of Malcolm Delaney could be one of the best under the radar moves of the off-season and he should get first crack at the backup spot behind Schröder. Delaney is a Euroleague veteran who is a good shooter and looks like an ideal fit for Atlanta's pick and roll attack. He is a combo guard and could also see some time at shooting guard.
The Hawks also agreed to a one-year deal with Jarrett Jack to give them another veteran presence in the locker room. Jack's 2016 season was cut short due to an ACL injury and he is currently continuing his rehab. The Hawks will likely play it safe with him early on in training camp and bring him along slowly.
It remains to be seen what Jack brings to the team at this point. He put up good scoring and assist numbers in Brooklyn last season but shot just 39 percent from the field in what was a dumpster fire of a situation. Jack is a suspect defender and lacks efficiency on the offensive end of the floor. He posted a net rating of -5.8 with the Nets last season and hasn't had a positive net rating since he was a member of the Golden State Warriors during the 2012-13 season.
Jack brings a veteran presence to the locker room and that can be valuable but the Hawks will be best served to limit his opportunities on the court.
Kyle Korver, Tim Hardaway Jr., DeAndre Bembry
Before we get deep into the shooting guard and small forward discussion, it is important to point out that the Hawks consider these two spots virtually interchangeable. Any of the six players cast for these two positions could find themselves on the court together in various match-ups.
Kyle Korver struggled at times during the 2015-2016 season, but still managed to shoot 40 percent from three-point range and was, again, among the team leaders in net rating. Korver's off-season routine was disrupted last summer due to ankle and elbow surgeries but he isn’t getting any younger. A more normal off-season this summer could lead to a more consistent product on the floor, but it probably wouldn’t be wise to expect a return to the superhuman level that he was at during the 2015 season.
There is a concern that the league is catching up with the Hawks' space and pace game plan and defenses routinely locked in on Korver early on to prevent him from having a big impact. Mike Budenholzer moved Korver into a bench role during their second round playoff loss to the Cavaliers and it seemed to free him up. It remains to be seen if he continues that into this season but Korver's shooting will be more important than ever with the addition of Dwight Howard.
The Atlanta Hawks acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. in a somewhat controversial move at the 2015 Draft. He was nowhere to be found during the early part of last season but came on strong in the second half and will be looking to take a sizable leap forward this season. Hardaway became a fixture in the Hawks' rotation in January and quieted some of his critics. He knocked down 38 percent of his three-point attempts after the All-Star break while committing himself on the defensive end of the court. A strained groin at the end of the regular season prevented Hardaway from having much of an impact in the playoffs. However, he should begin training camp with a leg up for a rotation spot but he can't afford any struggles with much more competition around this time.
The Hawks selected DeAndre Bembry with the 21st pick in the 2016 Draft out of St. Joseph's. Bembry flashed a strong overall game so far in summer league and looks like the type of competitor that Budenholzer covets. It remains to be seen how quick he can work his way into the rotation but shouldn't be discounted and will be looking to capitalize once an opportunity presents itself.
Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha, Taurean Prince
Kent Bazemore enjoyed a breakout season in 2016 and turned it into a four-year, $70 million contract to return to Atlanta. Bazemore is the latest poster child for Atlanta's player development program and took a large step forward in just about every statistical category in 2016. As a small forward he gives up some size but proved to be a more than capable defender despite that disadvantage.
With that contract, the Hawks are betting that Bazemore hasn't yet reached his ceiling and looks like he will be a part of the team's core for the foreseeable future.
Thabo Sefolosha returns for the final year of his contract and again gives the Hawks a versatile defender to deploy off the bench. He is another player that spent last summer recovering from injury so he could benefit from a normal offseason.
Atlanta acquired the No. 12 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft in a three-team trade that landed Jeff Teague in Indiana. They then used that pick to select small forward Taurean Prince out of Baylor. Like Bembry, there are a number of veteran options in front of Prince so it will be interesting to see how Atlanta’s rotation develops.
Paul Millsap, Mike Scott, Kris Humphries, Mike Muscala
Like the wing positions, the power forward and center spot are virtually interchangeable. So keep in mind that any of these players could end up seeing time at both positions.
Paul Millsap enjoyed another banner season for the Atlanta Hawks in 2016 and remains one of the most underrated forwards in the league. Despite his success, Millsap's name was out there in trade discussions this summer as Atlanta looked to clear salary in an effort to retain Al Horford in free agency.
For now, it appears as though Millsap won’t be going anywhere but the Hawks will be faced with a major decision next summer when he again hits the open market.
The guarantee date came and went for Mike Scott who is now in the final year of a three-year contract that will pay him $3.3 million this season. That is quite a bargain for a player like Scott who was again was a key piece off the bench offensively but also made remarkable improvement on the defensive end of the floor.
The Hawks re-signed Kris Humphries to a one-year deal this summer and he should again provide some muscle off the bench. Humphries joined the team late last season and gave them a lift down the stretch. He is not afraid to mix it up whether he is playing the power forward or the center spot.
The addition of Humphries gave Atlanta 16 players with contracts for next season which is one more than the maximum allowed. That makes the upcoming preseason very important for Mike Muscala who’s deal for next season is only partially guaranteed.
The team remains high on Muscala but he has not yet taken the step forward and seized a rotation spot. He opened the playoffs in the rotation ahead of Humphries but was eventually replaced against Cleveland as the Hawks scrambled to find a combination that works.
Dwight Howard, Tiago Splitter, Walter Tavares
No player has done more this summer to repair his tarnished reputation than Atlanta’s new center Dwight Howard. Since signing with the Hawks, Howard has talked about change and buy in and that is a very good thing for the team.
Howard the basketball player brings a lot of positives to the court. His presence alone could lift Atlanta into the top half of the league in rebounding. The Hawks had the second best defensive rating in the league last season and used the versatility of Millsap and Horford to snuff out opposing pick and rolls. Howard won’t be as adept in that aspect but the fall off defensively won’t be much and will likely be offset by the improved rebounding.
The challenge will be fitting Howard into Atlanta’s offense. The Hawks tumbled to 18th in offensive rating last season and didn’t do a lot this off-season to add shooting to the roster. The pick and roll has been a huge part of Mike Budenholzer’s system since he arrived in Atlanta and Howard looks like a great fit with the ability to put pressure on the rim if he is willing to buy into that role.
Tiago Splitter was one of the team’s major additions last summer but his 2015-2016 season was nearly a total loss due to a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. All signs are that Splitter is ahead of schedule and could be ready for the start of camp. Splitter isn’t a great rebounding center but he is good defensively and understands the intricacies of Budenholzer’s system. If healthy, in many ways he could be a solid backup for Howard.
Walter Tavares spent most of last season in the D-League and showed improvement in summer league where he averaged 9.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. His size alone makes him intriguing and he could get an opportunity if Splitter’s injury problems return.