This NBA off-season was a whirlwind of movement. Typically quiet months were spent with players flying from team to team, division to division, and conference to conference, and now, in the middle of September, there are still players of talent unsigned or in trade discussions.
With all these moves, how has the NBA landscape changed? With Jimmy Butler and Paul George moving to the Western Conference, has the Eastern Conference become even weaker, or has it just made the gulf between the bad and the good teams in the West even greater? With the trade between last season’s Eastern Conference finalists in Boston and Cleveland, has the gap closed between the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors?
In these series of predictions, we will begin to go through every team in the NBA and examine the moves that were made, what they will mean, and from worst to best, project where each team will finish this season, starting off with the Atlanta Hawks.
2017–2018 Projection: 19 Wins – 63 Losses
Additions – Luke Babbitt, Marco Belinelli, Nicolas Brussino, Tyler Cavanaugh, John Collins (rookie), Quinn Cook, Dewayne Dedmon, Tyler Dorsay, Josh Magette (2-way contract), Miles Plumlee
Departures – Jose Calderon, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Howard, Kris Humphries, Ryan Kelly, Paul Millsap, Mike Scott, Thabo Sefolosha
Just three seasons ago the Atlanta Hawks held the best record in the Eastern Conference. That team had four All-Stars and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Only three seasons later, with Paul Millsap, the last of those four All-Stars, departing, the Atlanta Hawks now appear to be embracing a rebuild. The Hawks let Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. walk for nothing, and traded away Dwight Howard, who had only signed the previous off-season.
This off-season the Hawks have signed only small, shorter contracts to mostly young, inexperienced players. Dennis Schroder is now the Hawks best player. The 6-foot-1 point guard is coming off his best season, averaging 17.9 points, 6.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. As Schroder enters his 5th season, the Hawks will be relying on him to continue his performance from last season’s playoffs, where he led the team in scoring and assists.
Beyond Schroder, the Hawks do have some players who, with the absence of Millsap, Hardaway Jr., and Howard, will have the opportunity to earn significant minutes. Ilyasova, who played 26 games for the Hawks last season, re-signed with the Hawks for 2 seasons and will be relied on for his outside shooting. Small forward Taurean Prince won the starting spot for the playoffs, but Kent Bazemore is the highest paid player on the team, and if they can get some quality production from him, expect the team to place him on the trade market.
Atlanta’s only significant off-season acquisition, Dewayne Dedmon, should provide the team with much-needed defense, and if he is allocated enough minutes, should produce a double-double average in points and rebounds. Miles Plumlee, after several disappointing seasons, will be given the means to prove he belongs in the NBA as Dedmon’s back-up at the centre position. Rookie John Collins joins as the perfect fit for a team that will be in desperate need of size, scoring and rebounding. Between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Wake Forest, Collins increased his scoring average from 7.2 PPG to an impressive 19.2 PPG in only 26.6 minutes per game. His rebounding average climbed from 3.9 to 9.8 rebounds per game.
This 2017-2018 NBA season will end a 10-year streak of the Hawks making the playoffs, but as they begin their rebuild, they do so with some pieces already in place in Schroder, Prince, and Collins. Unfortunately, this will not be enough to win many games, but with a few fortunate draft selections, the Atlanta Hawks will be in the playoffs again, soon enough.