UPDATE: The Hawks have reportedly signed point guard Isaiah Taylor to a non-guaranteed contract. Theoretically, he would slot between Delaney and Magette on the pecking order at point guard.
The Atlanta Hawks are in action on Wednesday evening and while the roster looks to be nearly complete at 14 full-roster players and one two-way contract, there is some intrigue remaining as to what the rotation will resemble against the Dallas Mavericks. To that end, KL Chouinard of Hawks.com spoke with Mike Budenholzer on Monday and unearthed that the team is considering a ten-man rotation that might stretch to 11 at times.
“Ten has kind of been our number quite often. The old NBA it used to be nine or eight. Some teams or coaches are still eight or nine. We’ve probably been at ten. I would say we are open to adding an 11th guy to the rotation. There are guys that have earned opportunities, earned chances to play. Sometimes you settle in after ‘X’ number of games but throwing an 11th guy into the mix may be something we consider or we do.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look what Atlanta could roll with in the opener and beyond, breaking things down by tiers.
Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon
If you project to be in the starting lineup, a rotation spot is assured. In short, it would be a shock to see any of these players fall completely out of the mix barring injury.
The Hawks need a backup point guard and Delaney is the guy. It would be nice if he improved on his shooting from his rookie season but, given his performance in Europe, that seems like a safe bet. Moreover, Quinn Cook is no longer around and Delaney is the only incumbent point guard option behind Schröder.
As a first-round pick in 2016, Bembry has the inside track toward increased playing time and he performed well in the preseason. He brings a dimension as a creator that no other wing on the roster can bring. Now, let’s hope for growth in his jump shot.
John Collins and Mike Muscala
Collins would have been on the “maybe” list before the preseason. At this point, though, it is clear that a) Mike Budenholzer is buying in and b) Collins is ready to roll. He might not play a ton every night but he’s the one big in the rotation who’s explosive as a finisher and an offensive creator.
As for Muscala, he might be the fourth big now that Collins has emerged but the Hawks invested in him with another contract and his ability as a knock-down shooter helps. He’s best as a center, which could limit his deployment, but he’ll be around.
Belinelli looked to be a lock before a preseason in which he was largely absent. His Achilles issues were largely mysterious but, on Monday, Budenholzer indicated that he would likely be ready for the opener. If that holds, it would be a surprise if the veteran wing wasn’t involved but crazier things have happened.
If we assume Belinelli is in the rotation, the Hawks have 10 guys. However, Babbitt was prominently featured in the preseason. He brings a different dynamic as a shooter that could be utilized in offense-first lineups at the power forward spot. It seems, at least to me, like Babbitt could be the “on again, off again” player in a 10-or-11 man rotation as a result.
The Hawks seem to like Brussino and he might be 7-feet tall. He’s probably not ready, though, for a rotation workload right now. With that said, he’s the only non-Prince player on the roster who has a “primary” position of small forward.
If Belinelli can’t go, Dorsey could conceivably sneak on the floor as a pure backup shooting guard. That was his role in the preseason but, at some point, it still seems likely that he’ll spend time in Erie along the way.
Injured and blocked on the depth chart
The Hawks might see something in Plumlee but, for now, he’s not available due to injury. Beyond that, it seems insane to think that the veteran would surpass Collins or Muscala for regular playing time, so he’ll likely need an injury (or two) to jump up on the depth chart.
This is a tricky one and it likely hasn’t been covered enough. Magette would have been the default “third point guard” for the Hawks in the absence of Cook but, on Monday, the team added a third point guard in Isaiah Taylor. In addition, Magette’s two-way contract stipulates that the 27-year-old can spend only 45 days (not 45 games) on the NBA roster and that limits just how often he can be in Atlanta. The Hawks could conceivably convert that deal into a full-fledged one if needed but, for now, we have to assume he’ll be in Erie a lot.
Budenholzer could throw a curve ball or two (remember when Lamar Patterson played over Tim Hardaway Jr.?) but, as it stands, this looks like the rotation from the outside looking in. Regardless, we’ll know more on Wednesday.