Atlanta Hawks Season Preview
The Hawks pressed the proverbial reset button in the offseason without a plan in place for a rebuild. Gone are Paul Milsap, Tim Hardaway Jr and Dwight Howard (addition by subtraction of the man who has killed every offense he has played in for the last five years). While the win-loss results will certainly be dire, from a fantasy perspective, this represents buckets of opportunity. The Hawks have to replace nearly 54 PPG and 26 RPG and if you can figure out where the lost production will be made up, you have a leg up on the fantasy competition.
The Hawks did little to replace their lost production so the numbers will have to come largely from existing options. Much of the value from the Hawks will likely be reaped via waiver wire pickups because there is likely one obvious fantasy option, but SOMEBODY is going to have to get the numbers. The likely stud on this team is the last man standing Dennis Schroder who will most certainly have most of the offense run through him. But there are other options who will emerge this season.
Even when the Hawks were good in their heyday under Mike Budenholzer, they have never featured one go-to scorer, opting more a balanced offense. In fact, the last time that the Hawks had a player average more than 20 PPG was Joe Johnson back in 2009-2010 and now Joe Johnson is borderline geriatric. I believe that this is the year that this changes, largely out of necessity and that player will be Schroder because someone has to take the shots. One trouble sign lurking last year which may carry over to this season was the fact that the Hawks ranked 27th in the league in Offensive Rating and from March onwards, were the worst in the NBA.
DRAFT WITH CONFIDENCE
Dennis Schroder – We said it before and we will say it again, Dennis Schroder will put up big offensive numbers this year. In just under 32 MPG, Schroder averaged 17.9 PPG and 6.3 APG. While his efficiency was on the lower side at [PER], Schroder was fifth in the NBA in drive points per game at 8.1, meaning he was attacking the basket frequently. That did not get him to the line as frequently as it should have, but loom for Schroder to have the ball in his hands even more this season in the absence of Milsap. Here is an incredible stat to ponder – when Schroder and Milsap were on the court together, Schroder averaged .54 points per minute. When Milsap was off the court, Schroder’s scoring average leapt to .65 points per minute. The assists will not necessarily go up, but the scoring will.
POTENTIAL LATE ROUND PICKS
Mike Muscala – The Hawks frontcourt looks to be a jumbled mess this year. There are at least six players in the running to draw time at both the 4 and 5 with no clear favorite for playing time. Muscala’s per 36 numbers would make him a viable multi category contributor – 12.7 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.3 3PT and 1.2 BPG. Muscala can be a solid 5 with a deft shooting touch. The issue is the multitude of options in the frontcourt now which may keep Muscala from getting the 30 MPG he would need to be a viable fantasy option. One red flag that could lead the Hawks to spell Muscala with Dwayne Dedmon or John Collins a little more often is Muscala’s declining rebounding abilities. His rebound percentage has gone down every year in the league to 10.9% last year which would be substandard for a center.
John Collins – This mention is based largely off of Collins dominating the Las Vegas Summer League. Collins averaged nearly a double-double over five games with 15.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG. This followed his freshman year at Wake Forest where he averaged practically a double double with an absolutely insane PER of 35.9. After watching Collins’ showing, it became immediately apparent that the Hawks did well to draft Collins in the 19th spot in the 2017 draft. Collins placement here comes from the upside plus the opportunity to be a starter by the end of the season. The issue with Collins playing time is position, he does not have the outside shot to be a stretch 4, but does not have the size to play the 5, but if the Hawks find a place to use him, he could eventually fill the gap left by Howard.
Taurean Prince – This mention is admittedly lukewarm, but I placed him here solely for opportunity, as Prince figures to slot into the starting lineup and play 30+ MPG. Prince did see an increase in playing time towards the tail end of last season and over his last 13 games averaged 10.5 PPG and 3.7 RPG. His shooting still is subpar, but Prince has the potential to be a contributor in steals. I don’t see his efficiency as allowing him to be a solid option, but he could get better over the course of the season.