In the doldrums of summer, the Peachtree Hoops staff came together for a 10-part roundtable series, answering a series of prompts with an eye toward the upcoming season for the Atlanta Hawks.
Part seven examines the team’s biggest weakness.
Jeff Siegel: Until further notice, Atlanta’s defense is the team’s biggest weakness. It’s not going to be easy to replace the defensive production they got from Dewayne Dedmon last season, particularly since they didn’t actually bring in a player capable of starting at the most important defensive position. Alex Len will take over for Dedmon as the team’s center going into next season and his play will help to define their defense -- if he can put it together on that end of the floor as a rim protector and rebounder, then it’s possible the team can creep out of the bottom five in defense, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Graham Chapple: Their center rotation stands out to me as a big weakness. Losing Dewayne Dedmon hurts a lot for a multitude of reasons and while Miles Plumlee wasn’t very good, he at least provided a big body (when healthy). Now, Alex Len is by far the team’s best pure center and should he pick up an injury, the Hawks are in a big bind at the center spot. They could slide Collins into that starting spot but things still don’t look good at that position. Len is important.
Rashad Milligan: Going to roll with Glen on this one (see below), defense is still a problem going into this season until the Hawks can prove otherwise. Brad has said that he expects Reddish to eventually be a stud defensively, and judging by online comments, Hunter is supposed to be a hybrid of Kawhi Leonard and Dennis Rodman on that end of the floor. If those guys can live up to half of that expectation this season, in addition to Bembry, to go along with Pierce potentially inserting his defense into the system this year, then Atlanta can take that next step in becoming a perennial postseason group.
Zach Hood: Defense. It’s really not even close. A team that ranked third-worst in the NBA in defensive rating last season adds three rookies, Jabari Parker and Chandler Parsons while losing Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon. The young guys should improve throughout the season, but as of now, they project to be just as bad as they were on that end last season, if not worse.
Toby Adeyemi: Their biggest weakness is inexperience, a problem that can’t really be fixed. The Hawks addressed all their flaws this offseason with players they think could fix them, that will be seen this season. With all their faults, the Hawks were still competitive last season, so there’s no reason for us to believe they won’t be this season. What’s going to make or break the Hawks will be the games they can or cannot close. The Hawks have the potential to possibly be a bubble playoff team so they’ll need every win they can get.
Sam Meredith: Defense is their biggest weakness, but I actually think their defense will improve from last season. They added two good rookie defenders and, while they may make many mistakes this season, I think this is the first step to implementing Pierce’s defensive philosophy. Bembry and Huerter were the guys that really seemed to buy into Pierce’s philosophy of funneling playmakers into the lane and forcing them to get by Dedmon or Len for twos instead of threes. The Hawks just added two of the best perimeter defenders in this draft so while the numbers may not reflect a nominal statistical change in defense this season will be important for laying the foundation for future seasons under Pierce.
Matt Harris: Defense is a glaring issue and it’s not going away. A bottom five defense in the league last year will look mostly to Hunter to improve it, but one guy can’t do it all himself.
Glen Willis: I don’t really see a path for this roster to move the needle on defense, and they were the third-worst defense in the league last year. For the prognosticators that are expecting a playoff berth, this is where I struggle with that being an expected outcome. None of the veterans that were added to the team have a significant defensive track record. Hunter, Reddish and Fernando could all be very good defensive players in the future, but I don’t see them being effective enough to really improve the performance on the defensive end of the court this season.
Andrew Kelly: Defense is the low hanging fruit following a season where the Hawks were consistently torched, but I’ll diversify and go with the second unit as the team’s primary weakness. While Evan Turner is probably best deployed as a point guard, he’s still not especially effective, and his lack of perimeter shooting is a major weakness. Compounding this is that the 2nd unit’s projected primary scorer, Jabari Parker, is also only a limited shooter. And then you have Bembry, whose defensive skill set the Hawks would do well to utilize, but he also has questions as a shooter. With Dedmon’s departure, the Hawks will not have a second stretch big to space the floor on the 2nd unit. Things could get ugly fast when Lloyd Pierce turns to his bench.
Dylan Hughes: I won’t stray from the common opinion here: it’s defense. It’s not a great sign that the Hawks’ best perimeter defender (Hunter) is a rookie — and they won’t have Dewayne Dedmon down low to clean things up this season. The other two rookies, Reddish and Fernando, offer some defensively ability but again — relying on rookies on that end of the floor may leave you disappointed.
Greg Willis: The defense will not be spectacular but I also expect offensive production from the bench to be an issue. Turner and Parker will be steady on the second unit but there is not enough overall fire power from that group unless Chandler Parsons becomes his old self and puts up big numbers off the bench.
Brad Rowland: Defense is the obvious and accurate answer. It was a massive problem last season and, while there is some reason to think that the returning headliners improve on that end, the defensive talent isn’t overwhelming on this roster. With that out of the way, there could be a real issue with offensive creation when Young and/or Collins leave the floor. There are players, including Turner, Huerter, Parker and even Reddish, that could create shots but none of those options are ideal right now.