Just over a month ago, we took a look at the Atlanta Hawks forthcoming season and gave a prediction for how the team’s season will likely turn out.
Many of the factors remain the same. However, a few things have since changed. We’ll address those changes and assess if they should affect the previous prediction.
Atlanta Hawks’ Roster
A month later, the roster has now become more concrete. In the time that has gone by, the Hawks have released DeShawn Stevenson and made the decision to have both rookie big men—Lucas Nogueira and Mike Muscala—play overseas in Spain.
In their stead, GM Danny Ferry has signed third-year 28-year-old veteran Gustavo Ayon and Greek Olympiacos stalwart Pero Antic.
Both players fit needs that the Hawks had to fill. Antic, in particular, not only fills a need, he fits the system. That could be extremely helpful as the season goes on.
The roster has come along, though two more moves may still be in play. It is within the realm of possibility that guard Shelvin Mack, whose contract is not guaranteed, could be released in lieu of roster flexibility, as Ferry would still like to add one more wing player.
Additionally, Lou Williams’ recovery from a surgically repaired ACL is beginning to look favorable. Recently, he revealed that he hopes to be ready for the beginning of training camp.
That would be huge, as it would enable the coaches to determine how they want to utilize him in the rotation and what role he is best suited for in the new offense before the season ever begins.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As previously stated, the Hawks’ greatest strength will be their ability to space the floor within the new offensive system under new head coach Mike Budenholzer. The team also sports an athletic enough roster to push the tempo, particularly when they run their smaller lineups.
The pacing and spacing will make it easier for the offense to take advantage of teams with inferior defensive players and schemes.
With or without chemistry, the frontcourt will be Atlanta’s greatest strength on offense. Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Elton Brand will get the lion’s share of the minutes and should be expected to be quite productive in their roles.
Unfortunately, even with the addition of Antic and Ayon, the Hawks don’t project to be anything more than an average rebounding team. That may prove to be problematic against teams with better rebounders.
Chemistry should still be expected to be an issue with the team adjusting to new players, coaches and a new system. Don’t expect everything to fall into place all at once.
In the Miami Heat’s first season with the Big Three, while playing with what was a completely rebuilt roster, they played their way to a 41-15 record by the All-Star break. The record looks great, but their losses came in bunches.
Twelve of their 15 losses by the break came in mini-streaks: three-of-four, four-of-five and five-of-six. Losing streaks can often be attributed to issues with team chemistry and issues with team leadership.
If that was an issue for a team that boasted three future Hall of Famers in its starting lineup, should it not be a fair assumption that the Hawks will be no different? It's likely they will be worse.
With as many new parts that have been added to the machine that is the Atlanta Hawks, one can only surmise that it will take time for everything to come together. Atlanta does not, unlike Miami, boast any future Hall of Fame players with which to make this transition easier.
Making things worse is the schedule. Atlanta faces the second most back-to-backs in the league, most of which will feature home-and-away games. Additionally, they will not have a home stretch longer than four games.
For the most part, this remains the same. One exception is Detroit.
In the previous iteration of this column, the Pistons looked good but had, like the Hawks, not yet finished making their offseason moves. Also, without an official schedule, I had projected the matchup with Detroit to be only three games.
Since then, their roster’s picture has become clearer and the schedule has revealed that the Hawks will play them four times.
The Pistons added point guard Brandon Jennings to their starting lineup and added Peyton Siva and Josh Harrellson to add more depth to their roster.
Where Detroit previously seemed to be an equal heading into the season, now they appear to be better. Boasting a potential starting lineup featuring Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, they look to be a potential threat to the East’s elite.
All things considered, I can see the Hawks dropping the extra game to Detroit, but I can also see them picking up a few more wins with some of the depth that they have added to their own roster.
Prediction: 38 - 44