Entering the 2014-2015 season, the Atlanta Hawks were projected to be a decent playoff team seeded in the lower half of the weak Eastern Conference. They exceeded all expectations.
The Atlanta Hawks ended the season at 60-22 which was the best record in the Eastern Conference. At the All-Star break, four Atlanta Hawks in Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Hordord made the Eastern Conference All-Star roster. Head coach Mike Budenholzer implemented a pass first offense and playing team defense. Every player on the Hawks trusted Budenholzer’s system and it was successful. Budenholzer was named Coach of the Year.
As the one seed heading into the playoffs, the Hawks dealt with injuries on their bench and lost the last three games of the regular season. The Hawks didn’t dominate like a one seed is expected to do. They made it past the Brooklyn Nets even though they challenged them through a six game series. Next, they were saved by the buzzer as Paul Pierce’s three-point make didn’t count ending the Wizards series in six games. Then as predicted, the Hawks played the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were swept by the Cavaliers and didn’t come close to matching the their intensity.
The Hawks enter the offseason with some money to spend and they have to spend smart. There are some starters hitting the free agent market and a bench that has some holes towards the back-end. Small and power forward will be the priority. Lets see who could be in Atlanta next season.
PF Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Bobby Portis is a tough power forward who plays angry. Portis has a low post game, mid-range game, and an improving three-point game. His motor doesn’t stop which was why he was named SEC Player of the Year. His size will impress scouts but his athleticism will not. Atlanta tends to slow the game down which will help Portis adjust to the NBA. He can play through contact and does the dirty work on the offensive glass. I have compared Portis to Millsap who could be potentially on his way out of Atlanta.
SG Devin Booker, Kentucky
Devin Booker is a three-point shooting prospect who is a smart shooter. Last season in Kentucky, he averaged 40% from the three-point line and 52% on mid-range jumpers. Atlanta finished 2nd in the NBA in three-point shooting efficiency, only trailing the 2015 Champion Golden State Warriors. If DeMarre Carroll leaves, the Hawks will need to add another shooter who could play in the starting lineup. His high basketball IQ, low turnover rate, and team play ability is a nice fit in Atlanta.
C Frank Kaminski, Wisconsin
The Atlanta Hawks need a three-point shooting big man. Kaminski stands 7’1″ with an all-around offensive game. He has great fundamentals, footwork, and basketball IQ. Kaminski plays like an international prospect yet he isn’t from Europe. Since he isn’t big enough to play the 5 he will have to play the four in the NBA. He needs to be in the right system and I don’t see a better system fit than Atlanta. Frank Kaminski will be a bust if he gets drafted into the wrong system.
SF DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks
DeMarre Carroll had a career best season last year and will be seeking a hefty new contract this offseason. He was the only Hawk in the starting lineup who wasn’t an all-star and he deserved to make the roster. He was the most reliable player in the playoffs averaging 14.6 points per game while starting in all 16 playoff games. Carroll was the best defensive player on a top 5 team in points given up per game. Carroll proved he is a reliable small forward and will sign based on financial terms in Atlanta or not.
PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
Paul Millsap signed a team friendly contract receiving less than $10 million dollars per season. Surely, he will be seeking an eight figure deal and won’t have an issue finding one around the NBA. Atlanta has the space to make a deal done and need to do all they can to keep the all-star. He averaged 16.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game which is around what he has been for the last five seasons. The Hawks went 4-4 with Millsap out of the lineup including losses to the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, and Charlotte Hornets. Atlanta needs Paul Millsap.
SF Jeff Green, Memphis Grizzlies
Jeff Green is a nice backup plan if DeMarre Carroll tests free agency. Green is a defensive minded wing who has been a consistent scorer throughout his career. The fact that Tony Allen started over him in the playoffs leads me to believe the Grizzlies will look to improve from Green at the small forward position. Green is a great team player that plays his best when playing team defense. The Hawks play a team game with 5 good players over a star taking over a game. Green is disciplined enough to mold well in Atlanta.
Atlanta could be facing an identity change this offseason. The Hawks thrived last season when all five starters were on the court. They could potentially be losing two starters who will both be requiring large contracts. If they lose both Carroll and Millsap, they will repeat with the Indiana Pacers to go from #1 seed in the East to being short of the playoffs the next season. I like the Hawks but they need all five starters to be fully effective. If Atlanta wants to continue to contend, they need to spend smart.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com