In the first edition of a 5-part series breaking down the Atlanta Hawks opening night roster by position, we begin week one with a look at the Point Guard position.
Starter – Dennis Schroder
There’s no other way to begin this breakdown than starting with Atlanta’s consensus best player. Schroder took over the starting point guard position last season following the Jeff Teague trade in June of 2016, a promotion that led to a career year from the 23-year-old. Through 79 games last season, Dennis posted averages of 17.9 PPG, 3.1 REB, and 6.3 AST while shooting 45.1% from the field (all career highs). Schroder also led the team in Usage Percentage (27.6%), which essentially means that when he’s on the floor, 27% of the team’s possessions end with him taking a field goal, free throw, or committing a turnover. With the departure of Millsap (24.3% USG), THJ (22.3%), and Dwight Howard (19.1%), expect Schroder’s usage to increase this upcoming season.
Schroder began his tenure as the starting point guard with some foreseeable growing pains. The first 31 days of the season saw Dennis averaging 14 PPG while shooting less than 43% from the field. His turning point seemed to come on a November 28th game against the Golden State Warriors in which Dennis scored 24 points, continuously silencing the raucous crowd and keeping the Hawks in the game. There was a confidence and swagger about him, something we’ve come accustomed to seeing when the bright lights shine on the young German guard. This game seemed to mark the true beginning of Schroder’s reign as the starting point guard.
The other major area of Schroder’s season to touch on is his remarkable play against John Wall and the Wizards in the playoffs. Dennis finished a six-game series against the Wizards with averages of 24.7 PPG and 7.7 APG while shooting above a 50-40-80 split. Once again, Dennis didn’t back down from the challenge of going head to head with a superstar point guard. At 23 years old, he demonstrated a superstar level of ability that should have Hawks fans salivating at his future.
Schroder just finished playing for the German national team at EuroBasket 2017, leading them to the round of 8 following their second place finish in Group B and a victory in the round of 16. Germany fell to powerhouse Spain in what seemed to be an upset in the making until Marc Gasol and company went on a three-point barrage late in the third. Dennis finished that game with 27 points and 8 assists, making him first in scoring across all players in the tournament and shooting on a 48-39-89 split while being the focal point of every opposing team’s defense.
Schroders growth has been phenomenal, and given his age, the signs of improvement, and the departure of key pieces, expect another career year from Dennis.
Second String – Malcolm Delaney
Now here’s the real positional battle when it comes to the Atlanta Hawks point guards. The backup point guard spot currently belongs to Malcolm Delaney and it’s a safe guarantee that he’ll own this spot for at least the early part of the season. In his first year as an NBA player after coming from overseas, Delaney posted averages of 5.4 PPG and 2.6 APG on a 37-24-81 shooting split. Malcolm’s biggest strength to the team on the court was his ability to efficiently run the second unit and his knack for closing out quarters strong.
Labeled as one of the best outside threats in Europe coming into the season, Delaney admittedly struggled with his outside shot for long stretches at a time. For anyone who keeps up with Malcolm on social media, he vows these struggles will be a thing of the past. While on air with the NBA TV crew at this past Summer League, Delaney talked about his current offseason regimen and his goals for next year. When asked about what fans should expect from him this year, Malcolm responded, “For me, this year is the year to prove myself. I think last year I just wanted to get comfortable in the league…. I wasn’t used to everything they had available for us, and I didn’t take advantage of everything until the end of the season. I think I’m prepared for my year 2.” When asked about his physique, Malcolm replied, “I’ve been in the gym in Atlanta for 6 weeks straight now… This is the first time since college I’ve been able to work on my body for a full summer.”
The general take away from the interview and multiple other excerpts from Malcolm are that he’s been working his tail off this summer to prove to people he’s better than what he displayed last season. Having said all this, Hawks fans should expect to see a similar role from Malcolm this season with the hopes that his shooting and overall efficiency will continue to improve. However, this could change very quickly if our next player has anything to say about it.
Third String – Quinn Cook
The first new addition on our list belongs to former Duke point guard Quinn Cook. The Hawks signed Cook to a two-year deal in late August, a move that many Hawks fans hoped would happen after he was waived by the Pelicans. Cook appeared in only 14 games last season, posting averages of 5.6 PPG and 1.9 APG on very efficient shooting (50% FG and 42% 3PT) in limited minutes.
What really turned the heads of Hawks fans was Cooks impressive dismantling of the Hawks defense in this year’s Summer League. In two games against the Hawks, Cook averaged 25.5 PPG, 6 RPG, and 5 APG, seemingly getting to anywhere he wanted on the floor.
If this version of Quinn Cook is anything close to what we’ll see during the regular season, the Hawks will have stolen a 24-year-old sharpshooting point guard from right underneath the noses of every NBA team.
Cook’s strongest asset is his ability to stretch the floor and knock down both open and contested shots, something the Hawks are always eager have. If Malcolm Delaney starts off the season struggling with his jump shot, expect to see Quinn Cook get ample amounts of opportunity running the second unit.
Hawks fans should be pleased with this signing, as Cook comes in as a low risk, yet very high reward potential player. Given his young age, playing style and eagerness to prove himself, Quinn Cook fits in perfectly with this new roster reconstruction.
Two Way Contract – Josh Magette
Josh Magette is the first of his kind. The NBA has implemented a new contract, known as the “Two-Way Contract”, which allows players to play for both an NBA team and their G-League affiliate. To allow for this to happen, the NBA is expanding its roster size from 15 to 17, with the last two spots reserved for two-way contract players.
Under this contract, Magette will be able to earn an NBA salary on a pro-rata basis when with the Hawks, and a G-League salary for when he is with the Erie Bayhawks. However, the maximum amount of time Magette can spend in the rotation of the Atlanta Hawks roster throughout the season is 45 days, meaning the majority of his time will be spent in the G-League. Having said all this, expect to only see Magette in a Hawks uniform on nights where one or more of the trio of Schroder-Delaney-Cook are missing. These contracts serve as an emergency option for NBA teams that have been hit by the injury bug, while also allowing teams to invest more closely in a G-League prospect.
Josh Magette’s recent stents have come in the G-League with the South Bay Lakers and in this past summer league with the Atlanta Hawks. Through 50 games in the G-League last season, Magette averaged 15.8 PPG and a league leading 9.4 APG. These numbers earned Magette a spot on the roster for the annual G-League All-Star Game in 2017. In this year’s summer league with the Hawks, Josh finished with a stat line of 4.8 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.0 RPG, and 1 SPG.
With his lack of NBA size and athleticism, Magette is forced to use his tremendous basketball IQ, shooting ability, and passing instincts to succeed at a high level. There could potentially be a future for Magette in the NBA, maybe a smaller Steve Blake-esque type role, making this an important year for the 27-year-old guard to prove he belongs.