The 2017-2018 NBA season is rapidly approaching, even if it feels far away at this juncture. The Atlanta Hawks may not be a title contender but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any intrigue surrounding the team and, before training camp gets underway, our Peachtree Hoops staff came together to address ten topics about the squad.
The first edition broke down the team’s biggest strength for the upcoming season and, now, we take a more pessimistic approach in examining Atlanta’s biggest weakness.
Brad Rowland: The real answer is the offense in general but, in pinpointing one area, I’ll say a lack of offensive creation. At the moment, Dennis Schröder is the only player on the roster that is really capable of creating for himself and others. Could DeAndre’ Bembry get there? Maybe. Taurean Prince? Maybe, but this has been a problem for a while and not having Paul Millsap around could exacerbate things in a negative direction.
Graham Chapple: Scoring is going to be an issue. When the playoffs came last season -- and when things came down to it -- the only two players who could consistently score were Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder. Schroder will likely lead the team in scoring with Kent Bazemore probably behind him but who’s stepping up after that? Plus, as Brad has already mentioned, Schroder is probably the only player capable of creating offense for himself, how is everyone else going to get theirs? The Hawks will really need to space the floor around Schroder and move the ball to score, but getting to 100 points every night seems like it could be a struggle.
Greg Willis: I’ll go with youth and inexperience. I’m super excited to see this team play but I’m expecting to see them going through a learning curve when it comes to execution. This team does have its share of veterans, but a lack experience and continuity will present challenges. High roster turnover, the fact that returning players are expected to larger roles than they have ever played and the lack of clear definition in roles/rotations are a formula for inconsistent execution.
Glen Willis: I’m going to say playmaking in the front court. They ran a tremendous amount of offense through Paul Millsap last season and they have nothing close to a player that can replicate any amount of what he did for them. I think the playmaking at the point guard position and at the wings will be OK. And by the end of the season, they may be better than OK in those areas. I actually think they will be better than 27th in offensive rating next season because I just expect better player and ball movement with this group. But they could go through long stretches of games at points during the season where they struggle to identify a player they can rely upon to facilitate offensive production.
Jeff Siegel: What exactly is the offense going to look like? Are they going to stick with a lot of the high pick-and-roll they ran last year with Schröder and Dwight Howard, or will they eschew that for the Spurs East offense of three years ago? Do they have the high-IQ passers on this team to make that offense work at even a moderate rate? I don’t think there’s a single above-average passer on the roster, which makes it awfully hard to run a motion-based scheme. The opportunities to move the ball will be there, but I’m not convinced the talent on the team will be able to make the passes and reads that present themselves in the flow of the offense.
RedRev: Atlanta has lost two of the best post/perimeter defenders in league over the last two seasons in Horford and Millsap. This not only leaves voids at those positions but now their ability to erase others’ mistakes is gone as well. Schroeder struggle last season on the defensive end after Horford’s departure and I expect that to remain with Millsap now gone. There is not a post player on the current roster that has the ability to cover multiple positions at this point in their career. Good teams will often make Atlanta look completely helpless on the defensive end. While the offense has major challenges ahead, at least the shooting has been upgraded overall and Dennis should have more room to use his best assets. I do not see a path forward to this Hawks’ roster being a top-20 defensive team by any measure.
Thomas Jenkins: Last year, Atlanta struggled through prominent growing pains, and swapping out multiple starters (again) won’t help much. Schroder had many of his own developmental problems last season, and these problems, especially on the offensive end, could easily return given the lack of scoring on this roster. It’s tempting to look at some of the players that the Hawks added and say that the offensive talent is intriguing. As much as I like adding players like Luke Babbitt and Dewayne Dedmon though, it’s still impossible to say that the offense will be anything close to league average. This long, rambling answer all boils down to this: the offense -- from scoring to shot creation -- will once again be bad. Just how bad remains unclear, but the nights of watching this team struggle to score aren’t going anywhere.