The Atlanta Hawks shocked the NBA last season, rising from the Eastern Conference mediocrity treadmill to finish atop the Eastern Conference standings with 60 wins and four All-Stars to boot. Offensively, they were beautiful, with Coach Mike Budenholzer implementing a Spurs-esque ball movement, flowing, high pick-and-roll offense that transformed Jeff Teague and Al Horford into the most lethal pick-and-pick-your-poison (whether it be roll or fade) tandem in the entire league. Not only were the Hawks magnificent on the offensive end (especially during that 19 game win streak), they were also marvelous defensively, with an energetic scheme that resulted in Atlanta helping, trapping, rotating and packing the paint well, thus forcing turnovers and missed shots. Statistically, the Hawks were the 7th best defense in the league, not bad considering nobody was talking about this end of the floor for them.
Over the offseason, the Hawks kept the cast together, well they lost supporting actor DeMarre Carroll to the Raptors (correctly deciding not to overpay for his services), but they kept their four All-Stars and made some key acquisitions. Firstly, they added Tim Hardaway Jr to the team, in a somewhat puzzling move at the time. They traded away pick 15 (it doesn’t seem as though the Hawks were too keen on anyone with this pick as they had also arranged to trade it to Boston if the Celtics deal with Charlotte were to come to fruition) to acquire Hardaway Jr, a talented but shoot-first wing. If Coach Bud can get Hardaway Jr to buy into the system and play hard defense (which I have no doubt he will be able to do), a career best season of open threes and easy cuts to the basket may occur for their new addition.
But Hardaway Jr. wasn’t the prize of the offseason. Whilst what Carroll added in versatility, three point shooting, team first play, defence and toughness can be replaced by the likes of Thabo Sefolosha and the gaggle of other wings Atlanta has, the Hawks have addressed their biggest weakness by replacing him with Tiago Splitter – rebounding. The Hawks had the fourth worst rebound rate in the entire league last season (ahead of the 76ers, Knicks and Mavs) and this was mainly due to the Hawks having no true Centre on the roster. Splitter will be a key for this team, as he will not only allow Al Horford minutes at the 4 and potentially even Millsap minutes at the 3 (that would be one funky lineup), but he will be able to continue the flow of the Hawks offense through his already great passing (learnt in San Antonio). Splitter really gives the Hawks a different look this season and I can’t wait to see them in action. Bravo GM Bud, you have nailed your first offseason.
Oh, and I almost forgot, the Hawks also have Walter Tavares, the walking, talking NBA example that being over 7 foot can make you a millionaire.
Projected Record: 54-28
My Predicted Wins: 52-57
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