Atlanta Hawks Power Rankings: Evaluating Full Roster After First 6 Weeks

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistDecember 6, 2014

Atlanta Hawks Power Rankings: Evaluating Full Roster After First 6 Weeks

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    The Atlanta Hawks are off to a fantastic 12-6 start in the 2014-15 season, and it's been a complete team effort—not a single Hawk ranks in the NBA's top 20 for points, rebounds or minutes per game.

    But despite its lack of superstar talent, Atlanta has somehow sneaked into the Eastern Conference's No. 3 slot.

    Which of the Hawks players have been most instrumental to the team's success? There's no easy answer, since the team is so dependent on the contributions of many players.

    But we're going to do our best to answer that question by power ranking each member of the Hawks' 15-man roster.

    The players will be ranked according to their statistics and subjective level of play in the 2014-15 season—reputation and past achievement will not hold any weight.

The Other Guys

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    15. Adreian Payne

    Payne has yet to play a minute with the Hawks, thanks to some troubles with plantar fasciitis and the NBA's rule that only 13 players can be active in a given game. The 23-year-old rookie power forward has made a name for himself in the NBA D-League, however. He's put up averages of 13.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in six contests for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, according to NBA.com.

    14. John Jenkins

    The sharpshooting Jenkins has also been big for the Mad Ants. According to NBA.com, he's averaging 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 25 minutes per game in his four games with Fort Wayne. While both Payne and Jenkins have shown they are head and shoulders above most of their D-League competition, Jenkins is the one who has played minutes for the Hawks so far in 2014-15, with 12 points in 21 minutes versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 15.

    13. Kent Bazemore

    Bazemore's early-season performance has been head-scratching. The 25-year-old former Los Angeles Laker is extremely athletic, long and defensive-minded, but his offense has been dreadful, especially when shooting the ball. The minutes have started to come for the swingman, but Bazemore needs to show more scoring ability to prove he's worth significant minutes off the bench.

    12. Mike Muscala

    Muscala has been a pleasant surprise—when he gets playing time. Head coach Mike Budenholzer doesn't seem to think the 23-year-old center has much potential, because Muscala has only played in four games all season. The 6'11" second-year player from Bucknell is averaging 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    11. Shelvin Mack

    The development of fellow backup point guard Dennis Schroder has put Mack in a difficult spot. He's now being forced to play more shooting guard, a position he doesn't have the size (6'3") to play effectively in the NBA. The 24-year-old Mack is still a smart player with a nice jump shot, but his physical limitations are starting to overshadow his skills.

10. Elton Brand

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 5.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 steals, 16.3 PER, 0.107 win shares per 48 minutes

    Elton Brand embodies "veteran savvy."

    The 35-year-old power forward's athleticism isn't what it used to be, but he still manages to stay effective through a strong basketball IQ and good rebounding technique.

    Interestingly enough, Brand has only gotten action in three games this year and hasn't played in the other 14 contests due to coach's decision. 

    A big reason Brand rarely plays could be because of his lack of a three-point shot. The big man has only made two long-range shots in his career, and per Grantland's Zach Lowe, Budenholzer is obsessed with lineups where all five players can shoot from downtown. 

    According to Lowe, Budenholzer said, "I do really value shooting, and if everybody can do it, it’s better."

    Brand has played a total of just 48 minutes this season. If he had the same statistics over a larger sample size, his ranking would be a few slots higher.

    But for now, the graybeard checks in at No. 10.

9. Pero Antic

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    2014-15 per-game statistics: 5.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.1 steals, 9.1 PER, 0.052 win shares per 48 minutes

    If Brand is a victim of Budenholzer's love affair with three-point shooting, then Pero Antic is the chief beneficiary.

    The 32-year-old doesn't possess the skill set of a traditional center—he's not a rim protector (0.8 blocks per 36 minutes in 2014-15), doesn't have a strong low-post offensive game (14 total attempts at the rim this season) and can't clean the glass well (5.8 rebounds per 36 minutes).

    But boy, does the center from the Republic of Macedonia enjoy bombing away from the outside.

    Antic has taken 39 three-pointers already this year, compared to just 28 shots from inside the arc. This wouldn't be a problem normally, but he's only making 28.2 percent of his treys. Moving forward, he'll have to find his touch from the outside to stay in the rotation.

    On the bright side, Antic's individual defense has been good this year. Per 82games.com, he's allowing just a 9.6 player efficiency rating to opposing centers so far (15.0 is the league average).

8. Thabo Sefolosha

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    2014-15 per-game statistics: 5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.7 steals, 11.0 PER, 0.053 win shares per 48 minutes

    At No. 8 we have the Hawks' highest-rated offseason acquisition, Thabo Sefolosha.

    The best word to describe the 30-year-old's impact on the Hawks so far is "average." The swingman is providing strong defense, but that was expected when he arrived from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    The main problem with Sefolosha right now is his three-point shooting accuracy, or lack thereof. 

    In 2012-13, he canned 41.9 percent of his tries from behind the arc on 1.2 makes per game. Last year, he got 31.6 percent of his treys to go down on 0.8 makes. And this year, he's an anemic 3-of-22 from long range for a percentage of just 13.6 percent.

    If Sefolosha can regain even a little bit of that shooting stroke he had in 2012-13, he can become more than just a one-dimensional defensive spark off the bench for the Hawks.

7. Mike Scott

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    2014-15 per-game statistics: 8.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.1 steals, 16.0 PER, 0.088 win shares per 48 minutes

    Mike Scott broke out last season as a microwave scorer off the bench, and this year has been no different.

    The 26-year-old combo forward's scoring and rebounding numbers are both slightly down, but that's in big part to his minutes being reduced from 18.5 to 13.9 per game. 

    The reduction in minutes is a bit surprising, considering Scott is shooting a career-high 40 percent from three-point range and averaging a team-leading 21.6 points per 36 minutes.

    He is not known for his defense (a combined 0.2 blocks and steals per game this season) or rebounding (5.8 boards per 36 minutes) at all, so those are probably the two main reasons Budenholzer isn't playing him more.

    Like Antic and Sefolosha ranked below him, Scott needs to show he is more than just a one-dimensional player before he moves up in the rotation or in this list.

6. DeMarre Carroll

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.2 steals, 12.7 PER, 0.102 win shares per 48 minutes

    We take a big leap from No. 7 to No. 6 here with DeMarre Carroll.

    Like Scott, Carroll made a huge jump last season. However, Carroll's improvement was even more substantial. The 28-year-old small forward went from playing 16 minutes per game for the Utah Jazz in 2012-13 to playing 32 minutes for the Hawks and proving that he is a starting-caliber player in the NBA.

    And, unlike Scott, Carroll has showed more versatility to his game.

    He is a jack of all trades but a master of none. He's a decent scorer and shooter (.566 true shooting percentage this season), plays good defense and also rebounds well. 

    His all-around game is a perfect fit for a starting lineup that already possesses scoring in spades.

5. Dennis Schroder

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    2014-15 per-game statistics: 9.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.2 PER, 0.147 win shares per 48 minutes

    Who would have expected the 21-year-old Dennis Schroder, he of so many rookie struggles last season, to emerge as the Hawks' fifth-best player this season?

    Not me, certainly.

    Schroder is finally starting to deliver on the "Baby Rondo" comparisons he got last season, thanks to Budenholzer's vote of confidence. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore, Schroder said, "I think I’m more aggressive than I was last year. My confidence is up. Coach trusts in me. He put me in the game and told me to play. When I do this, I think it works out well."

    82games.com paints a particularly sunny picture of Schroder's early-season production. According to the site, he is putting up a 20.8 PER at the point guard position while limiting opposing floor generals to an 11.7 PER against him.

    If Schroder keeps up his pace, he'll be in the running for the Most Improved Player award at the end of the season.

4. Al Horford

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 13.2 points, 6.2 assists, 2.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.5 steals, 19.5 PER, 0.143 win shares per 48 minutes

    Unlike Schroder, Horford has been a definite disappointment for the Hawks in 2014-15.

    It does says something about the precedent Horford had set that a stat line of 16.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes is a major letdown. 

    But right now, the physicality just isn't there yet for the 28-year-old center after his season-ending pectoral injury last year. Horford is averaging just 0.9 free-throw attempts per game, down from 2.9 in 2013-14. He's settling more for mid-range jumpers and rarely mixing it up inside.

    His skill set still makes him a valuable piece for the Hawks, but he's certainly not playing at the All-Star level he's played at in the past. 

3. Kyle Korver

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    2014-15 per-game statistics: 13.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.5 steals, 17.3 PER, 0.169 win shares per 48 minutes

    Hawks fans, consider yourselves lucky—you are witnessing the most accurate single-season three-point shooting display in NBA history by one of your own, Kyle Korver.

    At a 56 percent success rate from downtown, he is on pace to shatter the previous record of 53.6 percent, set by none other than himself in 2009-10.

    But don't call the 33-year-old "shooting god" a one-trick pony—Korver is averaging a career-high 3.0 assists per game, and his defense his picked up as well.

    On the note of defense, 82games.com says Korver has allowed opposing shooting guards to net just an 8.8 PER against him. That's good stuff coming from a guy who is not known for his achievements on the less glamorous end of the floor.

    If Korver could create his own shot consistently, like the guys ahead of him, he would be ranked higher here.

2. Paul Millsap

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    2014-15 per-game statistics: 16.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 blocks, 2.4 steals, 19.5 PER, 0.129 win shares per 48 minutes

    Paul Millsap's 2014-15 season has been almost a carbon copy of his 2013-14 campaign, in which he made the All-Star Game.

    The 29-year-old power forward's scoring is similar (16.7 points this year compared to 17.9 last year), the rebounds aren't far off (7.9 and 8.5, respectively), the PER is virtually unchanged (19.5 and 19.8), and the win shares per 48 minutes are a dead heat (0.129 both seasons).

    Overall, the 6'8" Millsap is one of the league's most unique players. He's a stretch 4 (31.9 percent from three this season) with the dribbling ability, athleticism and strength to get to the tin and finish well there.

    Keep doing what you're doing, Paul.

1. Jeff Teague

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 18.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.4 steals, 22.0 PER, 0.168 win shares per 48 minutes

    Jeff Teague's career is a testament to hard work.

    The 26-year-old floor general's game has progressed in each of the six seasons he's been in the league. His scoring average has increased steadily from 3.2, to 5.2, to 12.6, to 14.6, to 16.5 and finally to 18.0 in 2014-15. His distribution abilities are also excellent, as shown by his 7.2 assists per game.

    Teague has a perfect blend of athleticism, size (6'2", 180 pounds), ball-handling ability and shooting range (41.5 percent from three-point range this season), which has firmly established him as a star in the NBA.

    On Dec. 4, the Hawks' official Twitter account had the audacity to declare Teague the Eastern Conference's second-best point guard.

    With the way he's been playing, that ranking might be accurate.

    Note: All statistics are from Basketball-Reference.com and accurate as of Dec. 5, unless otherwise indicated.