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 few editions are in the books but, have no fear, there is more to come. Today’s topic revolves around which member of Atlanta’s roster will be better this season than most would think.
Brad Rowland: Malcolm Delaney. The “veteran” rookie shot 37.4 percent from the floor and 23.6 percent from three last season. As a result, his efficiency numbers were unsightly. However, Delaney has been a plus shooter at every stop (both in college at Virginia Tech and in Europe) and I don’t buy the fact that he’s simply fallen off a cliff. It isn’t as if I’m expecting a full-blown breakout from the backup point guard but the Hawks were soundly better (+2.2 points per 100 possessions) with him on the floor last year and, if the shooting bounces back, he’s a solid backup point guard option.
Graham Chapple: I would also say Malcolm Delaney and Brad has explained pretty well as to why there’s a case to be made for Delaney, so for the sake of saying someone else, I’ll say -- if he’s not traded and he’s healthy -- Miles Plumlee. A lot of people have written off Plumlee because they know he makes a lot of money (more than a player of his calibre should). Plumlee showed in Phoenix and Charlotte that he’s a good player, there’s a reason why he was signed to that bumper deal. So don’t be at all surprised when Plumlee can “suddenly” play.
Greg Willis: Mike Muscala tends to get lumped with other NBA stretch bigs who play off the bench. I think Muscala is better than that. He is a legit 6-11, can move and defend in space and is not afraid to play a physical style of basketball. His biggest strengths are his basketball IQ and his shooting. He can be an elite shooter at his position. If he can defend and rebound well enough to stay on the floor 20+ minutes per game, we could see a real breakout season from Mike Muscala this year. I wish the Hawks had spent more on Muscala to lock him up for 3-4 years. I have a feeling that the Hawks front office will feel that way as well by the end of the upcoming season.
Glen Willis: I think there a number of players that could be called out here including Delaney, Muscala and Babbitt. But I am going to go with DeAndre’ Bembry here. His shooting statistics were so abysmal in his limited minutes last season that I have heard some pundits questioning whether or not he is a real NBA player. I consider that take bonkers! I think he has the potential to be one of the 20 best defensive guards in the league right now. His length, intellect, attention to detail and his technique discipline are a rare combination. I think he is the Hawks’ player that will move the needle the most from the beginning to the end of the season in terms of the perception of him around the league. Offensively he possesses a lot more craft as a dribbler and at the rim than most people realize. He also demonstrates excellent awareness as a distributor and facilitator, we will just have to see if he can get his skillset to be advanced enough to make the most of his play in those areas.
Jeff Siegel: Mike Muscala is a legit NBA big with the ability to play multiple pick-and-roll schemes, protect the rim at a reasonable rate for his role, space the floor very well at his position, and keep the ball moving offensively. For the first time in his career, there isn’t a top-level center in front of him and I expect him to seriously push Dewayne Dedmon for the newcomer’s starting role.
RedRev: Marco Belinelli thrives in European play and was a valuable role player with the Spurs. I think he emerges as a dependable shot-maker who will give Dennis help in becoming a leader of the team. He may have been viewed as salary fodder in the Dwight trade but he could have a Thabo-like impact on the offensive end after being cast-off similarly to how Sefolosha departed OKC.