The long offseason is almost done, and the Atlanta Hawks are holding their training camp this week. The fact that basketball is back is reason enough to pay attention to events in Athens right now, but here are five things to keep a close eye on through training camp and preseason.
1: How will Dwight Howard fit in?
After an offseason full of predictions about how Howard will fit in with the Hawks, it’s finally time to see him interacting and practicing with his new teammates. Questions about Howard aren’t going to go away because of a good training camp or preseason, but this is still the beginning of the center’s basketball activities in Atlanta.
The time for hot takes and predictions about Dwight Howard on the Hawks is almost over. It’s finally time to see this team in action.
2: How will the rookies play?
For the purposes of this article, I’m defining the rookies as DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince. Malcolm Delaney is technically one, too, but he’s several years older and looks primed to play a fairly significant role immediately.
Bembry and Prince are both important pieces of this team’s future, and their first training camp with Atlanta will give fans and media a chance to see how well they adjust to the NBA. They don’t need to play at a high level immediately, so as long as they seem to be progressing well their futures will both look bright.
3: Will any of the training camp invitees make the final roster?
The short answer is probably no, since the Hawks already need to trim down their roster to 15 before they can even think about adding even more players. That doesn’t mean there’s no chance though, and the fact that these players are even in Athens at all this week speaks to the organization’s high opinion of them.
If someone like Matt Costello or Will Bynum blows the coaching staff away, they could make the final roster. If that happens, Atlanta will either have to cut or trade players, adding a degree of roster intrigue heading into camp.
4: What will the defense look like?
The Hawks’ emergence as a defensive powerhouse last year was a welcome development for the team, since it allowed the roster to play to everyone’s strengths. This year, the personnel are different, but the defensive focus should remain the same.
Howard and Dennis Schröder are different stylistically from the players they replaced, and how the Hawks’ defensive schemes change to reflect this should be interesting. Whether the Hawks match their defensive success from last year or not, the product should look markedly different this season (even if it takes a few preseason games to fully develop).
5: How does the team replace Paul Millsap?
This is another question that will have to wait until the preseason to be fully answered (and to be fair, no one on this roster can fully replace Millsap). But Mike Scott and Kris Humphries will take on expanded roles for now, and it should be interesting to see how this affects training camp, if at all.
Really, the most important part here is seeing if Millsap recovers fully, and if his absence affects the team at all over the next few days. All indications still point to him being ready for opening night though, so hopefully this issue won’t be terribly impactful.