The duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap was one of the best big man pairings in the NBA. But even with Horford gone, replacing him with Howard adds more size and strength to this backcourt and keeps it one of the most feared in the NBA. The Hawks have been one of the worst rebounding team for years, because our center was always undersized. Now with Howard roaming the paint the Hawks can expect a big improvement there. Tim Hardaway Jr. is also on this list because he has as good a chance as any bench player to end up starting at some point in the season.
photo from Sporting News
Paul Millsap, PF:
Millsap is the anchor of this Hawks team on both offense and defense, and he can get it done in every way possible. He is a great defender and a consistent scorer, but still one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He goes about his business in a low maintenance way that doesn’t catch the eye of the general public, but if you know much about basketball, you know the value of Millsap. He played seven seasons of good basketball in Utah before joining the Hawks and becoming a star (ish). He’s made the all-star team each of his three seasons here and he only seems to be getting better with age. Last season he put up career highs in rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, as well as scoring 17.1 points per game, the second highest mark of his career. Millsap is only 6’8”, actually below the average for power forwards, but he plays like someone who is far taller. He led the team in both rebounds and blocks, and was considerably more productive in both categories then his much taller teammate Al Horford. Millsap also lead the team in steals, very unusual for a big man, but his teammates and coaches have praised him for having some of the quickest hands they’ve seen. All in all, even with the addition of Dwight Howard it wouldn’t be surprising for Millsap to still be the anchor of the team with his consistency on both ends of the floor.
photo from The Orlando Sentinel
Dwight Howard, C:
Finally the Hawks have a true center! No matter what is said about Dwight, nothing can take away the fact that he is big, strong, and can really play basketball. Many of his problems stemmed from playing with ball-hogs like Kobe Bryant and James Harden, but the Hawks have no one like that. Before he went to the Lakers and became one of the most hated players in the NBA, critics actually ridiculed him for smiling too much on the court. It is interesting how the perception of Dwight changed so quickly. Before the Lakers/Rockets version of himself, Dwight Howard was extremely popular and well liked. In 2008 he won the dunk contest and was a back-to back-to back defensive player of the year. Even last year, which was considered an off year for Dwight, he averaged 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. The Hawks have only had one player average double digit rebounds in the last 16 years, and no one has averaged more then 11 boards since Dikembe Mutumbo way back in 1999. Dwight Howard has a real chance to be the first to do it in the 21st century.
photo from ESPN
Tim Hardaway Jr. SG:
Hardaway has probably the best chance of anyone who is not currently a starter to become one at some point in the year. There are still a lot of holes in his game, he struggles on defense and can be inconsistent with his shot, but he is athletic and when his shot is on can knock down “3s” as consistently as any elite shooter. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a promising young player but still has plenty of developing to do which is why he will most likely begin the season on the bench behind Kyle Korver. With Korver’s big decline in numbers last year, it is very possible that Tim Hardaway will take over the starting spot before long.
The frontcourt of the Hawks is a veteran duo, great when they have the young Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore starting as well. Millsap rebounds and defends very well for his relatively short height, and adding a true center that consistently gets 12 rebounds a game will greatly increase the Hawks rebounding efficiency. This means less second chance points for the opposing team and more fast break points for the Hawks. Tim Hardaway should be getting good minutes this year and if he does well he could become a big part of the Hawks future.
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