Last week, the Atlanta Hawks filled the final two spots on their 15-man roster with the additions of Vince Carter and Daniel Hamilton. The role of Carter seems clear, as he will be as important off the court, if not more, as he will be on the court. His leadership could be of great value to an otherwise extremely young roster and the deal was largely framed through that lens.
However, the role of Hamilton is far from determined. But when considering his skill set, it seems he could provide real competition to a couple of players that are still trying to demonstrate that they are worthy of financial investment beyond the 2018-19 season... namely Tyler Dorsey and DeAndre’ Bembry. Dorsey will be a restricted free agent after this season. The Hawks will have until the end of October to decide if they want to commit to the fourth year of Bembry’s rookie scale contract.
If the roster remains as constructed through opening night, Dorsey, Bembry and Hamilton will be primarily vying for playing time behind Kent Bazemore, Atlanta’s starting shooting guard, with Justin Anderson and others jockeying for position at the small forward spot. But if Bazemore is moved in a trade, as has recently been rumored, significantly more playing time could be opened up for this group.
Dorsey was drafted last year for his offensive potential, especially as a perimeter shooter. He still needs to display improvement as an offensive creator. And while he demonstrated solid decision making as a defender during his rookie season, he lacks the size to offer much in the way of defensive versatility. As such there is much for the second-year player to prove in terms of his potential value on that end of the court.
Bembry was drafted two years ago because of his projected value on both ends of the court. He began his NBA career lacking a perimeter shot, but has flashed an improved stroke during the 2017 NBA Summer league and in 26 games of NBA action last season.
He surely hopes to not miss extended time to injuries as he has during both of his NBA seasons so far. But demonstrating the ability to make perimeter shots with consistency would go far towards convincing the Hawks’ front office that he has a well-rounded game and is worth further investment.
Hamilton is not the athlete Bembry is. And he is not the shot maker that Dorsey could be. But his core strength at this point is something that those two players are working towards developing...versatility.
At the collegiate level and in his two years of G League experience, Hamilton amassed impressive numbers as a rebounder and as an offensive creator. And he has the size to suggest that with some development that he could potentially offer a good bit of versatility as a defender.
Hamilton also fits a priority of new Hawks’ head coach Lloyd Pierce. This summer a 14-second shot clock was implemented as the Hawks summer league roster prepared for play in Utah and in Las Vegas. Pierce has stated that playing with pace will be one of the primary areas of emphasis this season. And while Hamilton does not possess exceptional speed, he has demonstrated that he has the skills to be effective in offensive transition.
He is especially good with grab and go action, quickly initiating transition offense after collecting a defensive rebound. A lot of the impressive assist numbers he put up came as a result of his aggressiveness pushing the ball and hitting teammates that were running the floor hard looking for easy scoring opportunities.
The Hawks auditioned a number of inexperienced wings last season, especially across the final couple of months after it was more than obvious they were not even close to being in contention for the postseason and as a number of player were proactively shut down with minor injuries. None of those player stuck past the summer.
Hamilton was added, not as a coincidence, after the coaching change was resolved. It’s certainly not a given that he will even be on the roster for the entire 2018-19 season. But when you consider his skill set in the context of what Dorsey and Bembry offer, the specific ways that he might challenge them for playing time is quite interesting.
One of the hardest things to maintain through a rebuild is a healthy presence of competitiveness. The versatility that Hamilton brings to the roster, even as a prospect, is evidence that Travis Schlenk and Coach Pierce intend for competition to be an important aspect of how they plan to attack the 2018-19 season even as expectations in the form of wins and losses remain low.