A little under a week ago, Peachtree Hoops reported on the latest bench projection for the 2016-17 Atlanta Hawks. This piece is important because — although the high-profile signing of Dwight Howard and promotion of Dennis Schröder have attracted a lot of attention — the performance of the Atlanta Hawks' bench will have a huge impact on the team's fortunes. The Hawks will most likely utilize heavy minutes from second-string players because of both strategy and age concerns on the starting five, and fans should expect to see several players get substantial minutes off the bench.
Currently, the Hawks technically have 12 players who won't be starters this year, but roster restrictions mandate that this number shrink to 10 by the time the season actually begins. Although it is impossible to truly know at this point who those 10 players will be, there are several names that are safe assumptions to receive big minutes off the bench.
The bench players who will have the biggest impact on the Hawks this year will most likely be Mike Scott, Thabo Sefolosha, Kris Humphries, Tiago Splitter, Jarrett Jack, Malcolm Delaney, and Tim Hardaway Jr. This list could easily change during the season, particularly if draft picks Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry break into the rotation, but on this side of training camp it seems likely that the above players will receive the most minutes behind the starters.
Most of the Hawks' bench is made up of veteran role players, individuals who excel at particular talents and provide needed depth at certain areas. Sefolosha, for example, is a high-level wing defender with veteran experience, while Tiago Splitter (despite some health concerns) is a solid backup center who also has a great deal of experience in the league.
Despite what veterans like Sefolosha and Splitter can contribute, there are still question marks on this bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. remains mostly unproven in terms of NBA consistency, and backup point guards Jarrett Jack and Malcolm Delaney could suffer from injury history or lack of experience, respectively.
How these questions regarding the above players are answered will have a huge impact on this season for the Hawks. Coach Budenholzer is famous for not overplaying starters, utilizing big minutes from key bench players to fill this void. In addition to this strategy, Dwight Howard and Kyle Korver are both on the wrong side of 30, meaning that even outside of Budenholzer's system fans should expect to see these two players have their minutes limited.
Despite the CBS sports prediction, the Hawks' bench has a lot of upside and there are many reasons to believe that these key rotation players can add a great deal to the starting five's contributions. Of course, this scenario could easily play out differently, and it isn't inconceivable that Budenbolzer won't be able to rely on his backups for substantial minutes.
However this situation plays out, it should have a big impact on the Hawks' prospects this season. This team has normally been able to expect substantial contributions from bench players though, and if that trend continues this team's chances at success will only improve.