Atlanta native Josh Smith had long been the most recognizable face in the Hawks’ franchise. He’s gone, now a member of the Detroit Pistons.
After a mass exodus, only seven members of last year’s season opening roster remain.
Joining the Hawks' new coaching staff are a few new veterans and a draft class of three solid rookies (two remain unsigned). The starting lineup is far from having been set, yet a closer look at the roster will at least reveal the team's future play style.
DeShawn Stevenson might be the definition of expendable.
The 32-year-old veteran swingman has two non-guaranteed years remaining on his contract. After 13 seasons in the league, he is no longer what he once was.
Last season, he participated in 56 games. He managed a paltry 5.1 points per game on 37.4 percent shooting. His player efficiency rating (PER) was a meager 8.8. These horrid numbers are not for lack of use; he played nearly 21 minutes per contest.
If he is still on the roster at the start of the season, the only reasonable explanation might be his three-point shooting. He made 76 three-pointers at 36.4 percent during the 2012-13 season.
Shelvin Mack’s place on the roster has recently come into question. He is one of three point guards on the roster—four if you consider Lou Williams, who is 6’1” and has played the point before in his career.
His production last season was below average. In 31 games, he tallied a mere 4.6 points, 2.2 assists and 0.9 steals in 13.4 minutes per game. His player efficiency rated out at 11.3.
His performance in Vegas against inferior opposition yielded similar results.
With a non-guaranteed, minimum contract, Mack may be first on the chopping block if GM Danny Ferry feels the need to add roster depth elsewhere.
Jared Cunningham came to Atlanta via trade from the Dallas Mavericks along with the 16th pick (Lucas Nogueira) and the 44th pick (Mike Muscala) in the 2013 NBA draft.
Having played sparingly in eight games during his first season, he isn’t much more experienced than this year’s rookies.
Statistically, he rates as an almost average player with a 14.8 PER. That, however, is quite deceitful considering he only played 26 minutes all season. Additionally, his performance in Vegas this summer was underwhelming at best.
He could be another roster casualty before everything is said and done. Although, it’d be much less expensive for the Hawks to cut him next summer when his contract is due for a Team Option.
Another possibility might be including him in a future trade.
Mike Muscala, Atlanta’s second-round pick, has not yet been signed to a contract.
Muscala sports a 6’11” frame with adequate size at 249 pounds. He also boasts a relatively efficient offensive game, which includes a good mid-range shot.
Those are skills that could be useful coming off of the bench.
In the Vegas summer league, he compiled averages of 5.8 points (on 40.6 percent shooting), 5.2 rebounds and one block in just over 18 minutes of action per game.
Double that, and he’d be pulling down a solid double-double if given adequate minutes.
He could play in a reserve role now. However, it remains to be seen if the Hawks will add him to their 2013-14 regular season roster.
After 14 seasons in the NBA, Elton Brand has devolved. Injuries and mileage have taken their toll and now the once reliable starter is reduced to the role of journeyman backup.
The past few years have been encouraging, as he has managed to stay healthy—missing only 23 games in four seasons. He brings his renewed health and veteran savvy to the Hawks on a one-year, $4 million deal.
The 2012-13 season saw Brand take the court for 21.2 minutes per contest, averaging 7.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. His PER rated out at 15.2. Additionally, he managed to grab 15.7 percent of all available rebounds.
If he can provide that kind of effort for the Hawks—particularly on the glass—Atlanta may improve its rebounding, which ranked 23rd in the NBA last year.
In 66 games with Utah last year, Carroll amassed 6.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 16.8 minutes per game. He shot an efficient 46 percent from the floor.
Atlanta is his fifth stop in four years. However, he is quite an effective player and should provide quality minutes off of the bench.
If he can improve his three-point shot (career 28.4 percent), he’ll fit in nicely behind Mike Scott and Kyle Korver on the wing.
Second-year guard John Jenkins is poised to make an impact with the Atlanta Hawks this season.
In his first year, he played in 61 games, contributing 6.1 points (on 44.6 percent shooting) in nearly 15 minutes per game.
With Josh Smith—among others—gone now, expect Jenkins to receive more minutes. His three-point shooting (38.4 percent last season, 37.6 percent in Vegas) will be important for the Hawks this season.
If new head coach Mike Budenholzer implements an offensive scheme anything like the San Antonio Spurs, utilizing three-point shooters to keep defenses honest will be an integral part of the offense. That means shooters like Jenkins will get plenty of minutes.
Atlanta’s 2012 second-round draft pick Mike Scott has taken a huge step forward in securing his place as part of the Hawks’ immediate future.
In his first season he saw limited action, playing in only 40 games. He played 9.4 minutes of action per game, but managed to average nearly five points and three rebounds with an efficient 47.6 field goal percentage.
This summer in Las Vegas, he continued his efficiency, averaging 18.6 points on 46.2 percent shooting and grabbing 6.2 rebounds in 27.4 minutes in five games.
He, along with second year teammate John Jenkins, established himself as one of the leaders on Atlanta’s summer league team. He demonstrated the ability to knock down spot-up shots with regularity when receiving passes.
At 6'8", his blend of size and range are ideal for an offense built around floor spacing.
Like second-round pick Muscala, Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira also faces an uncertain future.
The 16th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft has not been signed to a contract with the Hawks. He still has two years left on a deal with Spanish club Asefa Estudiantes which would require a buyout, should GM Danny Ferry wish to keep him stateside.
Nogueira has great length. At 7'0" with a 9'6" standing reach, he could be a solid rim protector.
In Vegas, Nogueira showed flashes of the potential that led to him being selected 16th in the draft by the Celtics—before subsequently being traded to Dallas and then Atlanta. In under 22 minutes, he managed six points, six rebounds and one steal and two blocks per game.
However, his lack of strength gave him problems when facing stronger men in the post. He was routinely forced off the block and easily boxed out for rebounds.
The Hawks could choose to let him go back to Spain and further develop his skills. Or, they could keep him here and help him develop his body strength, which even he admits is the top priority.
"Right now, the most important thing is my body. I can’t improve my body in Spain. I’m perfect to stay here because the most important thing is to improve my body."
As of now, no official decision has been made regarding Nogueira.
When in action, Kyle Korver is never the best player on the court.
His player efficiency rating, 13.9, isn’t even average. He is an adequate defender. He plays with good energy and is not afraid to hustle for loose balls.
Offensively, he is modest. In 2012-13 he averaged only 10.9 points per game in over 30 minutes of action. He doesn’t take over games, nor does he dominate the ball. And while he is a willing passer, with an average of only two per game, he doesn’t exactly rack up on assists.
He is a catch and shoot player.
Standing 6’7”, Korver has adequate size. He is versatile enough to play both small forward and shooting guard. But what makes him good enough to be the sixth best player on the Hawks roster is his efficiency from beyond the arc.
Last year, he made 189 threes while shooting 45.7 percent.
When opposing defenses want to double down in the post, they have to account for No. 26.
When healthy, Lou Williams is the fourth most efficient player on the Hawks roster.
Before injuring his knee last season, he served as Atlanta’s sixth man—a role in which he’ll likely continue this season. He is extremely useful as a reserve, as he has the skills necessary to play both guard positions.
Being that he is only 6’2”, he may be undersized defensively at shooting guard, but he is an adequate shooter. Last season, he shot over 42 percent from the field and made 72 threes at nearly 37 percent.
What makes him a prime commodity coming off of the bench is that he has starting guard skills, which present matchup problems for opposing teams’ reserves.
In the 2013 NBA draft, Dennis Schröder seemed like a “potential” pick for the Hawks at the 17th selection in the first round.
However, he proved this summer that his potential is ready now.
In Vegas, he wowed everyone—players, coaches, GMs and media alike. Everyone was impressed with how he commanded the offense, how well he conducted himself and how he managed his teammates. He communicated well with teammates on the court, using gestures and eye contact to get them where he wanted or needed them to set up the play.
When he had the ball in his hands on offense, he was in complete control. He ran the pick-and-roll offense to perfection, easily finding shooters and cutters when coming off of high-post screens. His passing is impressive, as he exhibits amazing court vision. He averaged nearly six assists in five games during the Las Vegas summer league.
Defensively, he has great quickness and applies quality pressure to opposing guards. He proved to be a ball hawk, averaging nearly two steals per game this summer. However, he had problems with fighting through screens, being forced out of the play. Like Nogueira, he will need to work on adding some muscle to his frame.
Schröder demonstrated the wisdom to be selective with his shots, choosing only to shoot when he was comfortable or open. He will, however, need to work on his accuracy, but that is something that will come with time and repetition.
If we learned anything from Vegas, it is that Dennis Schröder looks to be the point guard of the future for the Atlanta Hawks.
If Schröder is the Hawks’ future, that makes Jeff Teague the present.
Last year, while splitting ball-handling duties with Devin Harris and Josh Smith, Teague still managed to rack up 7.2 assists per game. That is a number that Hawks’ fans should expect to see go up, as he is now the team’s offensive conductor.
Offensively, Teague is an effective scorer, averaging 14.6 points on 45 percent shooting. Last year, he made 89 threes at a near 36-percent clip.
Teague knows that he is going to have more offensive responsibility and he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m excited to be in Atlanta. I’m ready to work. They want to push me to get better and I’m excited for that.”
Millsap has been among the top ten most efficient power forwards in the league four of the past five NBA seasons.
He has a well-rounded offensive game, with good shooting touch. Over the course of his seven-year career, he has an impressive .516 field goal percentage. That is impressive because his range extends out to the three-point shot.
While he doesn’t shoot it often, at 33 percent he is more efficient than Josh Smith (career average 28 percent). Offensively, expect the Hawks to utilize Millsap as a stretch 4. Doing so will open up the post, enabling center Al Horford more room to operate.
At only 6’8”, 253 pounds, he isn’t the biggest power forward, but he is a decent rebounder. His career average is seven per game, however he has been close to nine twice. The Hawks will need him to be active on the defensive glass if they hope to limit opposing team’s second chance points.
Paired up with Horford, Atlanta sports one of the shorter frontcourts in the league. However, it is not devoid of talent or skill.
If the NBA still awarded it, Al Horford may have been the 2013 Comeback Player of the Year.
After missing most of the shortened 2011-12 NBA season with a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery, he came back strong. He played 74 of 82 regular season games while averaging 37.2 minutes per contest.
Horford had a career year, recording a double-double for the entire season. He averaged career highs in minutes played (37.2), scoring (17.4) and rebounding (10.2). Additionally, his 19.8 player efficiency rating was the best among all Hawks’ players in 2012-13.
While Horford has routinely been asked to play out of position at center, it has not lessened his effectiveness. Last season, he shot nearly 50 percent with a repertoire that includes a reliable mid-range game (.432 from 10-15 feet, .430 from 16-23 feet). Additionally, he grabbed 15.7 percent of all available rebounds and assisted on 15.3 percent of his teammates’ field goals.
Defensively, he gives up a fair amount of size in the post but makes up for it with his agility and lateral quickness, maintaining good positioning throughout possessions. While guarding the 5 every night is punishing, he remains positive about playing alongside Millsap.
“I was talking to coach (Mike Budenholzer) and the way that the offense works, the 4 and the 5 are pretty much interchangeable. I feel like Paul and I will be able to complement each other.”
If they can manage the same level of chemistry that teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat have, this could be the beginning of a promising future for the Hawks.