In January I wrote an article with the superlatives from the first half of the year, and now I’ll be breaking down the best from the entire season.
Game of the year: April 9th, 2017: Cavaliers vs. Hawks
Two nights after beating the Cavaliers with four starters resting, the Hawks came back to Phillips arena to face LeBron again. They were dominated for three quarters, down by as much as 26 at one point. Then in the 4th quarter the Hawks began to slowly but surely chip away at the Cav’s lead. A huge fourth quarter from Paul Millsap brought the Hawks to within two when they forced a jump ball with five seconds to go. Atlanta won the tip and Millsap hit a fadeaway from the corner to send the game to overtime. The Hawks would eventually come out on top 126-125. Quite a few “fans” left before the 4th quarter, sure that the game had been decided. Those who stayed, including me, witnessed something incredible.
2nd place: Hawks 20 point comeback vs Milwaukee
Best front-office move: extending Dennis Schroder’s contract
The Hawks were busier than usual this past year, signing Dwight Howard, getting rid of Horford and Teague and trading the fan favorite Kyle Korver, as well making a handful of other moves. However, nothing the owners did was smarter than extending Schroders contract for four more years. Schroder is just 23 years old, and earned the starting point guard job when the Hawks traded Jeff Teague. That was also a great move because it led to drafting Taurean Prince who was a starter by the end of the year. Schroder is the future of this franchise and his improvement before his second year of starting will be critical for the success of the team for years to come.
2nd place: trading Jeff Teague for Jazz’s 1st round pick (Taurean Prince)
Defensive player of the year: Dwight Howard
Howard just beat out Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha for this one. Sefolosha was 7th in the NBA in steals per 48 minutes and Millsap was right near the top of the team in almost every defensive category, but this award had to go to the 31 year old big man. He shored up this defense that ranked fourth in the NBA and 1st when they were the away team. His blocks per game were a career low 1.2, but that is more a product of the way that basketball is played in today’s NBA. With more three pointers being shot and smaller players getting more creative in the paint, big men simply don’t have as many opportunities for blocks like they used to. Every good defense needs it’s strong, physical center who won’t get bullied in the paint and that is exactly what Dwight Howard was this season.
2nd place: Paul Millsap
6th man of the year: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway came off the bench for 49 of his 79 games played this season, so I’ll count him as a bench player. In the first game of the season Hardaway played the sixth man role and scored 21 points, catching fire in the second half and leading the Hawks to victory. He provided a fantastic scoring spark when coming off of the bench. If he wants to be a legit starter then he will have to improve his passing and defense as at the moment he is basically a pure scorer. His role on this team was much like Lou Williams’s role a few years ago. Play solid minutes off the bench, score in double digits, but do very little else to help. Hardaway needs to improve his overall game to stay in the Hawk’s starting lineup.
2nd place: Ersan Ilyasova
Most Improved Player: Dennis Schroder
Schroder was thrust into the starting point guard role before the season with the departure of Jeff Teague. Throughout the season he proved that he was ready to succeed Teague. Schroder recorded new career highs in virtually every category while also improving his field goal and three point percentage. While he made many mistakes and costly turnovers, as young guards are prone to do, Schroder showed a glimpse of just how bright the future is for this still only 23 year old point guard.
2nd place: Tim Hardaway Jr.
MVP: Paul Millsap
No award was easier to decide on than MVP. Millsap is one of the most complete players in the NBA and, despite his four straight All-Star selections, criminally underrated by the general NBA fan. He led the team in points with 18.1 per game, but that was by far not his only contribution. Millsap was also second in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and player efficiency rating. The anchorman literally does it all for this team as he was also the players that coach Bud looked to most often in clutch time. Millsap continues to get better with age which will just make it harder for the front office not to re-sign him.
2nd place: Dennis Schroder
featured Image: Soaring Down South