2016 Hawks Superlatives
Paul Millsap is second on the team in all categories. He is averaging 17.4 ppg, 8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.9 blocks and is second overall in player efficiency rating. Millsap is the definition of an all-around team player. There may not be a more perfect nickname for him than the one given, Anchorman. Millsap is this team’s anchor. Without him they are lost on the court and a flat-out bad team. There is no better proof to that statement than the season series with the Pistons. In game one Millsap was out with an injury and the Hawks lost by 36 points. Three weeks later when Millsap was back, the Hawks beat the Pistons with relative ease. While Millsap doesn’t lead the Hawks in any of the major categories, his Swiss-army knife style of play makes him by far this team’s most valuable player.
MIP (most improved player):
Schröder is making a strong case for himself to win the league’s most improved player award, not just the Hawks’. He is scoring a career-high 17.5 PPG, which leads the team. He is doing this while also posting career highs in free throw, three-point, and overall field goal percentage. It is rare for a player to improve their scoring by as much as he has (6.5 ppg higher than last year) while also becoming more efficient. This was no doubt the most obvious award to be given, as Schröder has gone from spaz sixth-man to all-star caliber starter.
Most disappointing player:
Some people would want to see Kyle Korver here, but he has actually improved from a forgettable 2015-16 season, plus his last game of 2016 was a season high 22-point performance, which saves him from this “award”. There are some who might even expect to see Dwight Howard here, but he is averaging 13.4 rebounds, the third highest mark in his career, and has a player efficiency rating of 23.3, his highest since 2011-12. This honor has to go to Kent Bazemore, who was just signed to a 4 year 70 million dollar contract over the summer. Baze has had to take on more on-ball duties this year with only two point guards, one of which, Delaney, is a rookie. The effects of this have been apparent. Bazemore is shooting a dreadful 27% from three and 37% from the field. Kent Bazemore was probably not ready to be handed the point-guard like duties that have plagued him this season, but as the season goes on, and he gets more comfortable, Bazemore could get back to last years numbers.
There’s a chance no play beats this all year. First off, Dwight Howard posterized Montrezl Harrell on a perfectly thrown lob by Dennis Schröder. Then not twenty second later, Howard met K.J. McDaniels right in front of the basket about 11 feet in the air and stuffed him to the ground. To the disbelief of Dwight Howard and everyone else in the arena, the block was called a foul. While that kept the play from getting the recognition it deserved on ESPN, it should not, in any way, keep us from marveling at the athletic feat that was witnessed in Phillips arena.
Hawks vs Bucks, December 9th 2016
There were really three candidates for this one.
Hawks vs Thunder: Hawks 110 Thunder 108
Russell Westbrook scored 46, but Millsap hit the game winner with 12 second left to overcome that incredible performance.
Knicks vs Hawks: Knicks 98 Hawks 102
Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the first half of the game to make an already close game even more exciting. It went down to the wire, and eventually went to OT, the first such game for the Hawks this season. The Hawks were able to get the win.
Hawks vs. Bucks: Hawks 114 Bucks 110
The Hawks were down by twenty at the half and it in no way felt like this was a game the Atlanta was going to win. Then in the third quarter, the Hawks scored 40 points to get back into the game. The 4th quarter was an exciting back and forth battle between the two teams. Dennis Schröder and Tim Hardaway Jr. both hit big shots to complete the 24-point turnaround and cap off the most exciting, and best game of 2016.
The first two months of the season have been at times, exciting, painful, and most of all confusing. This odd but talented melting pot of styles of play has beaten some exceptional teams. The Hawks logged wins against the Thunder, Rockets, Cavs, and Raptors. They have also been rolled over by worse teams, such as the Pelicans and Pistons. If the Hawks can become a more consistent offensive team, 2017 will be much better.
Featured Image: NBA.com