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.
We are making our way toward the end of the line but today’s edition is a very intriguing one. In short, which five-man lineup should Mike Budenholzer deploy in crunch time? Our opinions are here.
Brad Rowland: Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon. This isn’t an out-of-the-box answer by any means but the best frontcourt pairing (from a fit perspective) appears to be Dedmon and Ilyasova based on the way they could function defensively. Schröder and Prince are no-brainers and Ilyasova will provide the spacing necessary while being a pure power forward that the Hawks don’t really have elsewhere. I’m a huge fan of Mike Muscala but he doesn’t pair well with Ilyasova and, on the wing, Bazemore is just a better player than the other options available.
Graham Chapple: That’s difficult. I’ll take the easy way out on this one and I’ll give two lineups. Offensively, the best lineup is one that spaces the floor around Dennis Schroder so that he can penetrate and/or kick it out to his teammates behind the arc. So, probably Schroder, Belinelli, Babbitt, Ilyasova and Muscala. Or Schroder, Belinelli, Bazemore, Babbitt and Ilyasova if you really didn’t want Babbitt at SF or Muscala at C with Ilyasova. Defensively, of course, that lineup is pretty bad, so this would probably be the best defensive lineup that also blends some offense: Schroder, Bazemore, Prince, Ilyasova and Dedmon. All except Dedmon are capable shooters and can defend pretty well.
Greg Willis: I am going with Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, John Collins and Mike Muscala. This unit is certainly not their strongest defensive group, but I think it is their strongest offensive group. I contend that you do not need five strong on the ball defenders to be a strong defensive group. NBA defense is about playing as a single unit. Its about help and recovery. If this unit could pressure the ball and force turnovers they would create high percentage scoring opportunities and would have fewer possession to defend in the half court setting.
Glen Willis: The answer to this question will be completely different at the beginning of the season than at the end. At the beginning of the season their best lineup will be Schroder, Bazemore, Prince, Babbitt and Dedmond, although they will not be able to play it for a significant volume of minutes. I understand there will be an inclination to put Ilyasova or Collins in that lineup instead of Babbitt. And to be clear I think Muscala is going to have a really good season. If you asked me to list their ten best 5-man lineups Muscala would be in 7 or 8 of them. But Babbitt will create so much more space for Schroder to operate in the pick and roll and in dribble penetration and allow Bazemore to operate as an effective off the ball player.
Babbitt is not going to be able to play, for example, with Muscala on the floor because of the rebounding issues that would create. And he needs to spend time sharing the forward position with Prince specifically to create the ideal defensive matchups. So he will not be able to play much with Ilyasova. By the end of the season the best lineup will be Schroder, Bazemore, Prince, Collins and Muscala (and Bembry might start pushing Bazemore for that spot a little.). Once Collins stabilizes his defensive play that should allow this group to defend, rebound, get out in transition for easy points and achieve enough spacing in the half-court offense to be competent.
Jeff Siegel: The projected starting unit of Schröder, Bazemore, Prince, Ilyasova, and Dedmon will probably be the least-terrible lineup by net rating due to this group’s defensive prowess, but the lineup that puts Muscala on the floor for either Ilyasova or Dedmon is perhaps the most interesting quintet Budenholzer can throw on the floor on both ends, especially with Muscala at the 5. If he’s able to continue his solid defensive production in a larger role and against starting players, Muscala might supplant Dedmon in the starting unit while bringing a much more versatile offensive game to the table. Schröder, Bazemore, and Prince are locks at point guard and on the wing--there’s almost no chance any of the bench can remove those guys from the Hawks’ best lineup(s).
RedRev: I take this to be different from the starting lineup. By the end of the season, Dennis flanked by Marco, Bazemore, Prince and Muscala will produce our best plus/minus numbers. I am not sure how many minutes that lineup will be together but I believe it will be a go-to for Budenholzer in moments where he can get away with it based upon matchups.