Power Ranking Every Key Atlanta Hawks Player Before Season's End

Dan Schultz@DSchultz89Contributor IMarch 19, 2014

Power Ranking Every Key Atlanta Hawks Player Before Season's End

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    The Atlanta Hawks have had a wild season. They added a first-time coach, saw their best player go down for the year with a devastating injury and slipped from the third seed all the way to the eighth seed they currently hold.

    You have to give the Hawks’ players a lot of credit. They could have folded and given up, feeling as though the odds were against them to find any kind of success this year.

    They won a grand total of two games in the month of February out of the 12 they played. They lost 13 of 14 games at one point, which included an eight-game losing streak.

    But they are still hanging around.

    They are currently riding a five-game winning streak and appear to have their confidence back.

    Now it's time to rank the top 10 players for the Hawks as the regular season winds down.

10. Pero Antic

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    At 31, Pero Antic was probably not expecting to have this kind of rookie season in the NBA.

    When Al Horford went down for the year, Antic was thrust into the starting lineup despite having little NBA experience, having primarily served as a backup center for most of the year.

    By all accounts, Antic has done an admirable job. He is no Horford, but no one was demanding he become an All-Star center. He shoots well from the field (44.2 percent) and even possesses a deceptively good outside touch (37.4 percent from three).

    He definitely needs to crash the boards more (3.7 rebounds per game in 17.4 minutes per game), as the Hawks are currently ranked 28th in the league in rebounding. Given his 6’11”, 260-pound frame, he needs to get more physical underneath and really help out the Hawks with their rebounding woes.

    But you can only ask for so much from a rookie, especially one replacing an All-Star-caliber player, and the Hawks and their fans are definitely pleased with how Antic has performed so far this year.

9. Louis Williams

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    It's a shame that Shelvin Mack has more or less become the player the Hawks were hoping to get when they signed Louis Williams two offseasons ago.

    Not all of it is Williams' fault, as he has battled a variety of injuries that have seemed to haunt him ever since he became a Hawk.

    He is very similar to teammate Jeff Teague in that when he's hot, there's little you can do to stop him. However, when he's off, he's really off, and his shot selection has always been less than ideal throughout his career.

    For the year, Williams holds averages of 10 points and 3.6 assists per game. While those averages are definitely impressive, he is shooting a less-than-stellar 38 percent from the field for the year.

    However, like Elton Brand, Williams is a veteran player and a great person to have on your team.

    The Hawks need more production off the bench, and a healthy, zoned-in Williams is more than capable of providing that.

    We just don't know when we'll see it.

8. Elton Brand

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    Elton Brand is clearly in the twilight of his career, opting not to let his ego get the better of him by pretending to be the kind of player he used to be.

    Once a dominant player and considered one of the best at his position, Brand has certainly taken a step back due to injuries over the years.

    His willingness to accept a scaled-back role off the bench has been a huge benefit to the Hawks. Brand is currently averaging 5.7 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game on a 53.5 percent shooting clip from the field.

    Perhaps most importantly, he's the voice of wisdom in the locker room. He has been on some terrible teams and some great teams, and he's had much success along the way. He is an important part to this team thanks to his veteran presence in a locker room full of younger players.

    It is most often this type of player who speaks up and offers direction when times get rough. As we already know, it will be no easy road for the Hawks in the playoffs this year, and Brand’s leadership in the huddle should not be overlooked.

7. Shelvin Mack

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    Another surprise off the bench for Atlanta this season, Shelvin Mack is having a career year.

    Like DeMarre Carroll, Mack bounced around the league for a couple of years before Atlanta gave him a real shot to show he could be a dependable rotation player.

    He is an intriguing player due to his size. At 6’3” and 207 pounds, he's listed as a point guard but has the ability to play both guard positions.

    And while his reputation mainly rests on his strong shooting ability, he is quietly having a very effective year passing the ball, recording 3.7 assists per game in less than 20 minutes per game. He is a huge reason why the Hawks lead the league in assists per contest.

    Mack is certainly playing for a big payday as well. He's had a relatively solid year shooting the ball and maintains the potential to log crunch-time minutes in the playoffs should he continue to impress coach Mike Budenholzer.

6. Mike Scott

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    Mike Scott has transformed from a little-used reserve to a crucial part of this Hawks rotation.

    A former second-round pick, Scott is a 6’8”, 237-pound forward with a high motor and an ability to score around the basket despite being considered undersized for his position.

    After riding the bench for most of last year, Scott has played in 63 of the Hawks' 65 games, with a career night coming against the New York Knicks on February 22, when he scored 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds.

    Scott notched double figures in scoring in 13 of the Hawks' 14 games during the month of January. For the month, he averaged 13.4 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting from the field in only 21.5 minutes per contest.

    This guy is extremely efficient and is definitely playing for a big payday come this summer, when he will be an unrestricted free agent.

    He has been a big surprise to the Hawks, and they have rewarded him with more playing time during the season. Scott will need to continue to provide energy and scoring in the post if the Hawks want to make a serious playoff push.

5. DeMarre Carroll

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    DeMarre Carroll has to be considered for the Most Improved Player award this season.

    A little-used player who has jumped around the league during the first five years of his career, he has finally found a home in Atlanta.

    The club brought him in to be their defensive specialist, and Carroll has done just that, averaging 1.4 steals per game and proving to be a physical defender who can guard both forward spots if asked to.

    The real surprise has been his shooting, notably his outside percentage. He only shot 28.6 percent from the perimeter last year when he was with the Utah Jazz, but this year he has improved that to 37.7 percent.

    He is also shooting 46.8 percent from the field, while putting up 11 points per game to go along with his 5.5 rebounds per contest.

    Set to make only $5 million over these next two seasons, Carroll has been an absolute steal for the Hawks.

    If he can accept more of the scoring load the Hawks will be a much better team, given the fact that they can be offensively challenged at times.

    All things considered, Carroll has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this year.

4. Jeff Teague

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    While his individual stats and shooting percentages might suggest otherwise, Jeff Teague has been surprisingly efficient, as evidenced by his 16.58 PER rating.

    The reason I have Kyle Korver ahead of him is because of Korver’s record streak and insane shooting percentages, coupled with the fact that he makes much less than Teague and is expected to be mainly a role player, not a potential star in the making.

    Teague has the ability to be a stud point guard, but based on his poor shooting throughout much of the year as well as his 3.1 turnovers per game, it is difficult to know what to make of him right now.

    Recently, he has been stellar for the team, scoring in double figures during each of the Hawks' last four victories.

    He is only 25 years old with blazing speed and the ability to get to the rim effortlessly. Still, the Hawks need him to embrace the spotlight and live up to the contract they gave him in the offseason.

    There are times when he runs the offense smoothly and times when he is a turnover machine. Sometimes he is scoring in bunches; other times he couldn't hit the ocean.

    He is a huge cog not only in this current Hawks squad but in their future plans as well. If he can continue to raise his field-goal percentage and lower his turnovers, the team will be much better for it.

3. Kyle Korver

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    Kyle Korver set an NBA record for making a three-point shot in 127 consecutive games.

    In addition to this historic streak, he has been absolutely phenomenal from everywhere on the floor.

    Currently, he is averaging 12.3 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting from both the field and the perimeter, to go along with a 93.9 percent mark from the free-throw line.

    To put it simply, he has been downright efficient, notching a 14.40 PER rating as well.

    The 32-year-old veteran is also a great presence to have in a locker room full of youth seeking direction. Korver is a former second-round pick who found his niche in the NBA through hard work and sticking with his shooting strength, improving other aspects of his game, especially his defense, over time.

    He has been a huge part of this Hawks team and is fully worth the four-year, $24 million contact the team rewarded him with this past offseason.

2. Paul Millsap

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    You could not ask for a better season from a guy in his first year with a new team.

    Paul Millsap made the All-Star team for the first time in his career this year, and during this recent five-game winning streak he has been on a tear, averaging 22.2 points per contest and showing just how valuable he is to this team. He also recorded his first career triple-double this year against the Toronto Raptors in a March 18 win.

    He is currently averaging 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 36.8 percent shooting from the perimeter.

    It is clear that he has embraced "alpha dog" role with Horford knocked out for the season. That is a lot to ask of a new player who is trying to figure out a difficult system, but so far he has been lights-out.

    Millsap has always been an underappreciated player who does not seem to have a problem flying under the radar.

    Just like the Hawks themselves.

    If the Hawks are able to make ground in the standings and get the fifth or sixth seed, it will probably be largely due to Millsap.

1. Al Horford

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    Kind of cheating here, but this is an easy pick.

    Yes, Al Horford went down for the year after a pectoral injury and has not played since late December. In the 29 games he played however, he averaged 18.6 points per game on a ridiculous 56.7 percent clip from the field, along with 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest.

    When healthy, the Hawks were comfortably sitting at third place in the Eastern Conference and making a strong case as a potential “sleeper” upset to the Indiana Pacers and/or Miami Heat come playoff time.

    After Horford went down, the slippage that occurred, especially in February, was severe.

    While recently the Hawks have appeared to right the ship, they are still an eighth-seeded team that is desperately hoping to climb up the rankings to avoid both the Pacers and Heat in the first round.

    The loss of Horford has shown just how crucial he is to this team’s success, and it is a shame his All-Star-caliber season was cut short in such cruel fashion.