Atlanta Hawks Power Rankings: Rating Every Player Near Season's Halfway Point

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2015

Atlanta Hawks Power Rankings: Rating Every Player Near Season's Halfway Point

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    Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

    Could things be going any better for the 25-8 Atlanta Hawks?

    Nine of the team's last 10 games have been against squads in playoff positions, but Atlanta has found a way to win nine of those contests.

    The result of its hot streak, of course, has been sole possession of the coveted No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Hawks could claim that distinction was Dec. 27, 1997, per Basketball-Reference.com (via Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan).

    But no one player has been the Hawks' consistent savior throughout the first half of the season. Instead, the team has spread the ball around on offense and rotated well defensively. The Hawks' reliance on all five players on the court at a given time makes it hard to determine a clear pecking order on the team. 

    There's no harm in trying, though, so here goes nothing. 

    Note: Last month's edition of the player power rankings can be found here. Players ranked 11-15 in this article will have last month's rank in parentheses, and those ranked 1-10 here will have last month's ranking clearly marked underneath their statistic capsules.

The Other Guys

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    Shelvin Mack hasn't played up to the standards he set for himself last season.
    Shelvin Mack hasn't played up to the standards he set for himself last season.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    15. Adreian Payne (last month's ranking: 15)

    Payne finally played a game for the Hawks! Unfortunately, it was a forgettable debut for the 23-year-old rookie power forward.

    In Atlanta's 107-77 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 26, he notched just two points and three rebounds in 13 minutes on the court. For the most part, Payne has continued to toil away in the NBA D-League. He's played respectably both for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Austin Spurs, averaging a combined 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in 13 contests.

    14. John Jenkins (14)

    Like Payne, Jenkins hasn't spent plenty of time on the Hawks' 13-man roster, mostly getting called up when injuries arise. But the 23-year-old 2-guard has absolutely lit up the D-League in the seven games he's played there, to the tune of 24.4 points per 36 minutes on 55.1 percent shooting. Jenkins may have a future in the NBA, but it probably won't be with the Hawks.

    13. Kent Bazemore (13)

    We've seen glimpses of Bazemore's scintillating potential this season, but until the 25-year-old swingman develops some semblance of consistency, potential is all it will be. The athletic Bazemore is shooting only 28.6 percent from outside of 10 feet, which won't do him any favors, playing time-wise.

    It's still too early to call him a free-agency bust, but he needs to do more with the minutes he gets in order to become a part of the Hawks' long-term plans.

    12. Elton Brand (10)

    Good old Elton Brand. The 35-year-old power forward has only played 148 minutes in 11 games, and he won't ever dominate a contest, but he still finds a way to make an impact when his number is called. Whether it's setting a hard screen to create an open lane for a guard, popping a mid-range jumper or playing tough positional defense in the post, you can always count on E.B.

    11. Shelvin Mack (11)

    Mack had one great game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 17. The 24-year-old combo guard went 6-of-6 from behind the arc and finished with 24 points in the Hawks' 127-98 win. Besides that contest, he's been a disappointment. His numbers are down across the board, and he doesn't really have one special skill that justifies head coach Mike Budenholzer giving him significant playing time.

10. Mike Muscala

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 4.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 steals, 23.2 PER, 0.213 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 12 

    In very limited minutes (85, to be exact), Mike Muscala has been fantastic for the Hawks.

    Although Bazemore, Brand and Mack are below him and have all received more playing time than Moose, the 23-year-old pivot has clearly been more effective than they have.

    Per 36 minutes, Muscala averages 18.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. His field-goal percentage is sitting at a gaudy 61.3. This impressive production is based on a very small sample size and usually accumulated against the opponent's reserve players, but it can't be ignored altogether.

    At some point, Coach Bud will have to give Muscala the burn he deserves, and I believe that time is coming soon. After the Hawks' game against the Memphis Grizzlies this Wednesday, they begin a stretch of 11 games that includes eight opponents at or below .500.

    If the Hawks can jump out to quick leads in some of those games, we could see a lot more of Moose on the court.

9. Pero Antic

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 5.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.1 steals, 8.8 PER, 0.057 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 9

    In case you hadn't noticed, Pero Antic isn't exactly a statistical stud. If production were everything, he probably wouldn't be in the league right now.

    But the 32-year-old big man is here at No. 9 for one reason and one reason only: impact.

    Antic's on-off court splits are staggering—the Hawks defense is 14.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, per 82games.com. Atlanta's offense also gets a boost by 1.8 points over the same amount of possessions when he plays.

    Watching the man from Macedonia might not be too exciting, but he undoubtedly affects the other team's game plan with his one-on-one defense and floor-spacing. Antic is holding opposing centers to a 9.7 player efficiency rating, also according to 82games.com, and his ability to shoot three-pointers forces big men to leave the paint. 

    You may not like seeing Antic get heavy minutes, but most of what he does transcends the box scores and highlight reels.

8. Mike Scott

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 7.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.2 steals, 14.8 PER, 0.109 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 7

    You pretty much know what you're going to get from Mike Scott by now—floor-stretching three-point and mid-range shooting.

    The 26-year-old stretch 4 is shooting 39.5 percent from distance, by far a career high. His success rates from 10-16 feet (51.9) and 16-23 feet (52.2) are superb, as well.

    Don't expect Scott to lock down opposing posts down low, however. Peachtree Hoops tweeted about their discomfort with him guarding the Bucks' Zaza Pachulia during the Dec. 26 game between the Hawks and Bucks.

    Scott is a decent role player, but nothing more.

7. Dennis Schroder

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 8.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.9 steals, 14.4 PER, 0.062 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 5

    Now that Dennis Schroder has firmly established himself on opposing teams' scouting reports, success hasn't been quite as easy to come by. 

    In the six games since Jeff Teague returned from his hamstring injury on Dec. 23, Schroder's per-game numbers have been ugly: 4.0 points, 2.7 assists and 2.5 turnovers in 14.8 minutes on 29.4 percent shooting from the field.

    But don't be too harsh on the 21-year-old floor general—he's still young and has shown too much ability throughout the course of the past two months to be written off. 

    Games like the Hawks' 105-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 22 are the main reason Schroder is still ranked here at No. 7. In that particular contest, Schroder notched 22 points and six assists and outplayed Rajon Rondo, a point guard to whom he is often compared.

6. Thabo Sefolosha

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 5.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 13.2 PER, 0.111 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking:

    Thabo Sefolosha is one unlucky dude. Already this season, he's endured a basketball hitting an unfortunate body part, a nasty crossover and a big poster dunk.

    And yet the 30-year-old wing has come on as one of the Hawks' most valuable players in the past couple of weeks.

    Since Dec. 20, Sefolosha is averaging 8.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals in 20.1 minutes per game. His field-goal percentage is 59.0, and he's shot an encouraging 46.7 percent from downtown. Take into account his typically hounding defense, and you have quite the overall package.

    If his recent play continues, Sefolosha will easily be worth the three-year, $12 million contract he signed with Atlanta in the offseason.

5. DeMarre Carroll

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.2 steals, 13.4 PER, 0.127 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 6

    DeMarre Carroll is basically the same player as Thabo Sefolosha but with better three-point shooting. This difference in their games is precisely why Carroll starts over Sefolosha—and why he is ranked above his backup here.

    On the season, the 28-year-old small forward is draining 1.5 three-pointers per game at a 37.0 percent clip. Both of those numbers are career highs. 

    It's definitely a testament to the Hawks' success this year that Carroll is the weakest member of the starting lineup. According to 82games.com, both he and his opponents are averaging the same PER (14.1) while playing his primary position of small forward.

    Pretty good for a fifth option, if you ask me. 

4. Kyle Korver

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.7 steals, 15.8 PER, 0.172 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 3

    Korver's drop from No. 3 to No. 4 in this ranking is more about Al Horford adjusting to the NBA game after missing most of last season due to injury.

    However, the 33-year-old shooting guard's trademark three-point shooting stroke hasn't been quite as deadly as it was a few weeks ago. In his last 12 games, Korver has gone 32-of-73 (43.8 percent) from behind the arc. Most players would be thrilled with that kind of accuracy, but not Korver. Prior to the aforementioned dozen contests, he was shooting 64-of-114 (56.1 percent) from three.

    Although his shot is slightly off (by his standards), Korver is still providing lots of space for the Hawks' slashers and post players to operate. With him on the floor, the threat of three points for the Hawks is always dangerously imminent.

3. Al Horford

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    GREG WAHL-STEPHENS/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.6 steals, 19.2 PER, 0.147 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking:

    I was pretty hard on Horford in last month's edition of these rankings, calling him a "definite disappointment."

    The 28-year-old pivot has picked up his play since then, despite his efficiency stats remaining essentially the same. Horford is currently riding a 14-game double-digit scoring streak and has become more physical on both of ends of the floor.

    The former All-Star isn't quite where he was at last year before his pectoral injury, but he hasn't needed to be. The two stars ahead of him on this list are doing more than enough to keep the Hawks atop the Eastern Conference.

2. Paul Millsap

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 17.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.9 steals, 19.8 PER, 0.161 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 

    Millsap has just been so fun to watch this season.

    When the 29-year-old power forward gets the ball on the perimeter, he thrives on making opposing big men look silly by driving right past them. He uses his body well on screens, sometimes popping out for a mid-range jumper and other times rumbling to the rim for a feathery finish.

    The question right now is: Will Millsap be an All-Star? If the Hawks remain the East's top seed, it would be a travesty for coaches not to send him to New York City as a reserve (he won't make the starting lineup).

    In each of the the past four years, the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed has sent at least two players to the All-Star Game. I don't see that trend stopping in 2015.

1. Jeff Teague

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    GREG WAHL-STEPHENS/Associated Press

    2014-15 per-game statistics: 17.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.7 steals, 22.2 PER, 0.198 win shares per 48 minutes

    Last Month's Ranking: 

    It was a tough choice, but Jeff Teague has been the Hawks' best player of 2014-15.

    What made the decision so difficult was the success Atlanta had in the three games the 26-year-old floor general was injured; it went 3-0, winning against the Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Mavericks, all on the road.

    Despite that, the Hawks are still better with Teague in the lineup. I realize this is just conjecture, but Atlanta probably wouldn't have stayed undefeated without Teague for much longer had he stayed out. 

    The smooth Teague is second among Eastern Conference point guards in PER and win shares per 48 minutes. He runs the offense for the conference's No. 1 seed. Add all of these factors together, and he's an easy choice for the All-Star team.

    Not only will Teague be an All-Star, but he is the best player on the Eastern Conference's best team.

    Note: All statistics are from Basketball-Reference.com and updated through Jan. 4, unless otherwise indicated.

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