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For the most part, day 1 of NBA free agency frenzy was thought to have been won by Mike Conley’s 5-year $153 million dollar deal with the Grizzlies (largest deal in NBA history), only to be outdid by the Atlanta Hawks signing Dwight Howard to a 3-year $70.5 million dollar deal shortly after. The hometown kid returns to his roots where we were first introduced to the 6”10 slender teenager with the Hollywood smile, as he dawned a #12 for Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Fast-forward 3 teams in 12 years later and his presence couldn’t come at a better time.

 

 

The Hawks have a history of having trouble acquiring star power, especially through free agency, and the low attendance numbers over the years are a direct result. Dwight’s signing doesn’t mean sold out games every night, automatic championship contenders, but what it means is the organization’s unwillingness to hunt big names is a narrative of the past. Owner Tony Ressler, GM Wes Wilcox and Coach Mike Budenholzer have decided that in order to every cross the bridge towards relevancy and appeal to the rest of the league, it will first need to establish a precedent and that’s what this acquisition does. Now the Hawks job isn’t done, they will need to surround Dwight with the pieces to legitimately contend for a championship. Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver still remain from the All-star foursome selected to represent in New York a year ago. Bazemore played the best basketball of his career this season and will return after signing a 4-year $70 million dollar deal and a confident Dennis Schroder steps into the starting point guard spot.

 

The 3- time defensive player of the year leaves an offense first, offense second, oh, and then defense third mentality in Houston; and now joins one of the best defensive coaches in the league. The Hawks have finished in the top three of defensive rating over the past two seasons. What Budenholzer has done is highly impressive, given the lack of size and rebounding capabilities on the roster; he now he has a game-changing player with the ability to secure both of those deficiencies. Atlanta has sorely missed that imposing defensive presence anchoring, sort of similar to what Tyson Chandler meant to those Dallas Maverick teams, an already outstanding group of perimeter defenders who do a terrific job of swarming ballhandlers and speeding up offenses Al Horford and Paul Millsap did all they could, playing much bigger than their listed size. However, now with Howard, Hawks are in a great spot frontcourt wise, because either Millsap stays at his designed position or Horford finally slides to the power forward spot where many believe he can be most productive in.

 

Another important note is that due to Budenholzer’s all hands on deck philosophy; he has been able to keep the minutes of his two cherished big men to a minimum, Horford logging in 31.9 minutes and Millsap logging in 33 minutes per game over the past 3 seasons, another refreshing sign for Howard.

 

Over the past couple seasons Dwight has not looked like the Superman we saw in Orlando, much of that can be attributed to injuries (knees and back) and poor coaching philosophies he was forced to endure. However, he is not absolved of blame, defense is all about effort and his effort was questioned much of the season as he looked disengaged at time. The injuries is one thing Atlanta is taking a risk on, but the mental stability is much more riskier. Howard discussed the situation in Houston on Inside the NBA on TNT during the playoffs.

 

“As a big, sometimes you want to feel a part of what’s going on,” Howard said on TNT. “If I could bring the ball up the court, shoot threes, go between the legs and do all that stuff, that would be great. But I have to rely on my teammates to get the ball. Now, there have been times where I’ve been upset and I’ve taken myself out of games in situations, and that’s on me. I have to grow to be a better player at that.”

 

Howard’s played 71 games and the entire first round, so the issue wasn’t physical, but much more a mental block. He averaged just 13.7 points per game, the second lowest of his career on just 8.5 field goals a game, on a team that took 7,392 regular season threes during his tenure. He now joins a philosophy that believes in ball movement and has shown that they don’t mind playing through their bigs, two factors that I’m sure played a large part in his decision. Howard will certainly find much more comfort playing with a willing passer in Dennis Schroder, especially in pick n roll situations forcing defenses into a tough circumstance with shooters on the perimeter. This scheme also promotes lower post passing between its big to create easier scoring opportunities as he would likely post and catch or catch and go closer to the rim. A similar scheme is currently ran on the clippers between Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan whenever they play two-man game from a Hi-lo setting; Millsap is just as much, if not more, of a floor stretcher as Griffin and an excellent passer too.

 

The possibilities with this team, under this coach are limitless for Howard as long as he stays healthy and engaged. He is now 30 years old with an injurious history and has been apart of enough drama to launch a Netflix series. More than ever before, Dwight’s legacy will be impacted, in his hometown, as an Atlanta Hawk.

Feature Image: Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

There’s one thing I love about the NBA: when the action on the court finally ends, the NBA keeps going. And it comes thick and fast too. Game 7 of The Finals took place on June 19th, the NBA Draft just took place last Thursday (June 23rd) and now we’re about to head into the free agency period, beginning July 1st.

In free agency, you’re always treading in murky waters, but more so than ever this summer. Why? The salary cap is set to rise from $70 million to a whopping $94 million, with the salary floor (the figure of expenditure that teams have to reach) reportedly believed to be $84 million. Most teams are set to have at least $20 million in cap space, so teams are going to be throwing money left, right, and center.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how it all plays out, but what about for the Hawks? What’s their situation heading into free agency?

“What we have, we hold”?

The Hawks’ summer — just as it was last year — is set to be a very busy one. Franchise cornerstone Al Horford is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, while Kent Bazemore is also hitting the market off the heels of his best season in the NBA. We’ll get to the Hawks’ other free agents later, but it’s all about Horford and Bazemore.

Let’s start with Horford, Atlanta’s cornerstone, and I have some things to say to his naysayers.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Al is not the greatest rebounding center out there. And I get it, Hassan Whiteside is a better rebounder, but if you think Hassan Whiteside is a better player — more so the idea that the Hawks are better off with Whiteside than they are with Horford — then you’re out of your mind.

General question I like to ask when it comes to free agency: is there a player available on the market who is better than the player you’re considering letting go? In this case, the answer is no. As an overall package, there is NO CENTER better than Al Horford on the market this summer. None. Continue Reading…

Coming into draft night the Atlanta Hawks had several questions to answer after shipping Jeff Teague to his hometown Pacers just a day earlier for the 12th pick. The move that helps Atlanta sign Horford and possibly bring back Bazemore. Atlanta struggled much of this season rebounding and taking care of the ball, with an undersized frontcourt and unsettling backcourt debate. However, just as detrimental as those deficiencies were, the lack of youth and athleticism were just as apparent.

 

Free agent Kent Bazemore was that youthful bright spot in the backcourt bringing energy, athleticism, intensity and shooting; but he will surely be sought after this summer and once again put the Hawks back in familiar predicament searching for a multidimensional asset at either the SG or SF position.

 

Despite how the draft unfolded, Hawks GM Wes Wilcox reassured importance of Kent Bazemore to this team.

 

Wilcox and Coach Mike Budenholzer elected to address those needs in this draft by selecting Taurean Prince (6’6) and DeAndre Bembry(6’8), Two hard working individuals that possess not only athleticism, but the ability to score in a variety of ways that fit the hawks system, qualities that were glaringly missing as LeBron and company swept their season away once again. As they’ve shown in the past, the possibility of losing their most versatile player (like demarre last summer) prompted their decision to draft these two in hopes they too embrace and flourish within Budenholzers developmental system like Bazemore.

Wilcox talks about the focus of this draft

 

Prince averaged 15 points (leading scorer) and 6 rebounds per game leading Baylor to the NCAA tournament, where they were upset in the first round by 12th seed Yale. His versatility fits right into the scheme coach Bud employs, he prefers players like Demarre Carroll and Thabo Sefolosha, who are interchangeable between either the 2 or 3 spot. Prince compares mostly to Demarre because of his 6”11 wingspan and lateral quickness that assist in his effectiveness as defender. Offensively, Prince may be limited somewhat as a ballhandler, but the ability to knock down the three point shot, mainly catch n shoot, was apparent in the loss versus Yale as he went 4-7 from beyond. Prince can contribute right away by being that high motor disrupter defensively and floor spreader offensively that we saw at Baylor. Despite his troubles creating opportunities for himself off the dribble right now; Budenholzer’s system doesn’t require that skillset from his wings, it highlights everything Prince is made of.

 

The A-10 Player of the Year, Deandre Bembry, provides the hawks with more playmaking, more versatility defensively along with a team-oriented mindset that coincides with Atlanta’s concept. Because of his ballhandling skills and quickness, he has a knack of finding the seams in defenses comfortably, thus creating opportunities for himself and others. In his final year as a St. Joseph Hawk, Bembry was only one of three players in the nation to average at least 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4 assist, Ben Simmons and Denzel Valentine were the others two.

 

“He’s a good Hawks fit. He can handle, he can pass, and he’s unselfish. He is an exceptionally great passer, said Wilcox.

 

Deandre talks about his versatility

 

Shooting currently is his biggest obstacle, consisting of his mechanics (slow release and shoots on the way down) shot selection and three point woes(just 26% last season). Luckily for him, Hawks shooting coach Ben Sullivan has done a remarkable job with Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha; but even more notably he played a large part in Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard’s development as shooters during his time in San Antonio. He will surely have his work cut out for him with Bembry as a shooter, but his all around game fits just right.

 Lets be honest, neither one of these guys were what many Hawks fans expected. But they are definitely what were needed.

 

“We are confident in the work we’ve done and the time we put in to this”, said a smiling Wes Wilcox post-draft.

The end of the All-Star break marks the beginning of a hugely significant time of the season — the stretch run. It’s crunch time across the NBA for many teams. You have teams gunning for the number one seed, teams gunning for home court advantage, teams gunning for the playoffs, and you have a few teams gunning for the lottery.

The Atlanta Hawks can be categorised into the second group mentioned — gunning for home court advantage. But they’ve ran into a wall. They’re currently on a three game losing streak and have lost five of their last six games. They currently occupy the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, with the Charlotte Hornets (who have been hot of late) sitting just two games behind the Hawks having played two games less. It goes without saying that the Hawks have to string together W’s down the stretch if they want to obtain home court advantage. What are they key games/road trips/stretches that the Hawks face as the season winds down?

Continue Reading…

The surging Atlanta Hawks meet the slumping New York Knicks this afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Atlanta enters Sunday’s showdown with a 2-0 mark against New York this season.

The last time these teams met, the Hawks used a dominant second-half performance to prevail, 117-98. Paul Millsap was the high man for Atlanta with 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. The Hawks outscored the Knicks 27-12 in the third period — and 57-35 in the final 24 minutes — for the team’s 20th win.

Mired in a 1-5 skid, New York dropped its last outing in embarrassing fashion to the streaking Chicago Bulls. Down big early, New York came storming back to make things competitive. However, the Knicks faltered in the fourth-quarter, shooting just 17-of-19 from the field overall whilst being outscored 31-8. Ultimately, Chicago handed New York its 19th loss on the season.

Conversely, Atlanta overcame a 19-point deficit to defeat the Houston Rockets 121-115 on Dec. 29. The Hawks were a second-half team in that performance as well, outscoring Houston 36-23 in the deciding fourth quarter to snap Houston’s modest 3-game winning streak. Four Atlanta Hawks starters scored 20-plus points in that contest with Al Horford registering a season-high 30. Continue Reading…

A night after having their six-game winning streak snapped, the Atlanta Hawks look to get back on track against the home-standing Houston Rockets. Atlanta has defeated the Rockets in the teams’ previous three meetings.

Houston comes in to tonight’s tilt having won four of their last six. However, the Rockets dropped a 110-108 road defeat to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. Ranked 26th in the league in points allowed (105) Houston gave up 63 first-half points, while being lit up by the tandem of Anthony Davis (24) and Eric Gordon (26).

The Rockets’ leading scorer, James Harden (28.4), netted 24 on 8-of-21 shooting from the field. The league’s third-leading rebounder Dwight Howard was held to nine boards and seven points in Houston’s two-point loss.

The Rockets are currently seventh in the west at 16-16. Houston’s Christmas day win over mighty San Antonio (27-6) followed by a loss to woeful New Orleans (10-21) has exemplified the team’s streaky season. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks look to extend an NBA best six-game winning streak while visiting the Indiana Pacers tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana comes into the contest struggling of late, having lost three-of-four.

One of the main catalysts for the Pacers’ recent 1-3 skid has been the slumping performance of All-NBA performer Paul George. This season, the 25 year-old star has averaged an impressive 24.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. However, George’s numbers have fallen off considerably in his past four outings. This precipitous drop off includes declined averages of 16.5 points, 5.3 turnovers and 29 percent shooting from the field.

During this 1-3 stretch, Indiana’s team averages have taken a nosedive as well. Overall, the Pacers rank sixth in the NBA in points allowed at 98.7 per contest. The team is seventh in points scored per outing at 102.7. But over their past four, those numbers have declined to 96 points scored and 99.5 yielded.

It’s fair to state that Indiana is struggling as a unit heading into Monday night’s tilt. Continue Reading…

Atlanta will look to extend its winning streak to five when they face the Detroit Pistons from Philips Arena on Wednesday. The Hawks reeled off a season-best seven consecutive victories after being soundly defeated by the Pistons, 106-94, on opening night.

In that contest the Hawks’ starters were dominated by Detroit’s. The Piston’s starting five posted 88 points to Atlanta’s 59. Former UGA standout Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led all scorers with 21. Andre Drummond was unstoppable down low, grabbing 19 rebounds while posting 18 points.

Detroit, (17-12) is currently the Eastern Conference’s sixth best team and in the midst of a 3-game winning streak. Detroit rallied from 18 down last night to defeat Miami 93-92.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have gone from ninth to third place in the Eastern Conference standings over the past seven days. At 18-12, Atlanta is one of only three teams in their conference to currently sport 18 victories. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics face off in an Eastern Conference rubber match Friday night at the TD Garden. The Hawks avenged an earlier 106-93 defeat to Boston by dominating the Celtics in the teams’ last meeting.

In that Nov. 24 meeting Atlanta overwhelmed the Celtics 121-94. For the contest the Hawks’ “Mr. Everything” Paul Millsap scored 25 points while grabbing nine rebounds.

Fast forward almost a month and both teams are just outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings. Each squad enters Friday’s showdown having dropped three of their previous four outings. Ninth place Atlanta currently holds a razor thin half game lead over tenth place Boston in the Conference’s pecking order. Continue Reading…

Last year the Atlanta Hawks took the NBA by surprise as they finished 60-22 and 12-4 in divisional play. This year poses a different challenge for Coach Bud and the team with expectations much higher than in recent seasons. Additionally, not only did the Eastern Conference get a much-needed face-lift, but the Southeast Division will also pose a much tougher challenge to these Hawks. Here’s a preview of what to expect from Atlanta’s division opponents in 2015-16:

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets fan base came into last season with high hopes coming off a 7th seed finish two years ago and the acquisition of Lance Stephenson in the offseason. So last year’s 33-49 record along with Stephenson’s 39% field goal percentage seemed like a bad joke Michael Jordan played on everyone.

In his third season, coach Steve Clifford will need to take the next step by placing more emphasis on improving the offensive scheme that ranked 28th in offensive efficiency last year. The addition of Nicholas Batum adds to an already stout defensive unit as well as a small forward that can stretch the floor. His presence on defense will be much needed with the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a torn labrum and seperated shoulder, suffered in last weekend’s preseason game against Orlando, that will sideline him for 6 months. Continue Reading…