A quick glance at the Atlanta Hawks’ roster reveals that several key players are over 30, and that there is only one starter under 25. This doesn’t need to be concerning though: none of the Hawks seem primed for a sharp decline (although it isn’t out of the question).
Another, deeper glance also reveals that the Hawks have several very young players, including a starting point guard under the age of 25. With the exception of that point guard, none of these players are ready for big minutes, but there are reasons to believe that some of them will be the core of a future Hawks team.
The Hawks have a mix of old and young players on the team right now, an interesting mix that has a pronounced effect on the team’s outlook this season. Atlanta is both relying on veterans and developing prospects, and each of these two plans is important to the team’s chance of success both now and in the future.
While it is true that the Hawks will be relying on both older and younger players this year, this team is ultimately more reliant on veterans than it is on its younger players. While it is impossible to overstate how important Dennis Schröder is to this team, Paul Millsap is still the best player, and Kyle Korver and Dwight Howard will shoulder a great deal of the Hawks’ production and defense this season.
Beyond this veteran core, though, the Hawks are also firmly committed to developing younger players. The two rookies, DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince, are the future of this team, and will most likely see at least some minutes this year. While neither looks to be a big factor in 2016-17, the door is wide open for both of these two rookies in following years.
There are several advantages to having veterans alongside younger players, and the Hawks should benefit from most, if not all, of them. Veterans can provide key leadership to rookies and developing talent, and the presence of a player like Millsap means that none of the younger players should be asked to do too much too soon.
Having young, developing talent on the roster is also important for the long-term future of the franchise. The Hawks aren’t ancient by any means, but one has to wonder how many more productive years their over-30 players have left. A sharp decline for any of them would be a surprise this year, but it isn’t out of the question, and the Hawks’ player development staff will be working to get young players ready to contribute when that day comes.
It can be easy to lose sight of players like Bembry and Prince over the course of a full NBA season, and it can also be easy to forget that Dennis Schröder is only 23 years old. If the Hawks play well together this year, the age differences may appear even less important. Atlanta will depend on both veteran and developing talent this year though, simultaneously playing for the present and planning for the future.