As another NBA chapter nears, it’s time for our season previews. Here comes the Hawks!
Projected Conference Finish: 139th
Best Move of the Offseason: Letting Paul Millsap go. No team is better at stumbling ass-backwards into good fortune than the Hawks. They won 60 games because they were dumb enough not to tank. Now they are tanking… but only after Travis Schlenk from the Warriors came over and told them it would be a good idea. Tony Ressler was adamant about re-signing Millsap in April.
He became a Nugget at well-below market value in July. Mike Budenholzer is probably still mad about it. Mike Budenholzer is the little league coach who forces his players to stay out past sundown practicing their bunting. Give him free rein and he will kill everyone in his path to win 46 games.
Now the Hawks can tank in earnest, and by God are they ready to tank. Here’s how many minutes per game their projected starting lineup averaged two years ago, in 2014-15, when Atlanta won 60 games:
Dennis Schröder: 19.3.
Kent Bazemore: 17.7.
Taurean Prince: 0.
Ersan Ilyasova: 22.7.
DeWayne Dedmon: 14.3.
They don’t have a starter who played more than half of the game on average TWO years ago. Meanwhile, their backcourt is built around a point guard famous for sharing a barber with Odell Beckham. Plus, a shooting guard who gives the league’s best high-fives. Their small forward’s best college teammate now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. This is dynamite. This is how you tank.
Worst Move of the Offseason: The Knicks were willing to pay Tim Hardaway Jr. $72 million. It’s been several months and I’m still not convinced that the Knicks realize they forgot to put a decimal point between the “7″ and the “2.” But let’s assume they were so desperate for Hardaway that they really intended to pay that money anyway. Come on, Atlanta. It’s the Knicks. Make them give you something in a sign-and-trade while they’re at it. If you’re willing to pay $72 million for anyone, you’re willing to give up a second-round pick as well to get the guy. This was just a missed opportunity.
Their Offense: Atlanta’s best offensive player (Schröder) had 1.2 Offensive Win Shares last season. Guess how many current Warriors had more.
You’re probably thinking four. That’d be a good guess. Four superstars are surely better than Schröder, but come on. Nobody else has the ball enough to beat a starting NBA point guard.
If that’s your thought process, you were literally half-right. The Warriors have eight players who posted more than 1.2 Offensive Win Shares last season. Their four superstars, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, Andre Iguodala and Nick Young. The Hawks are built around a player who wouldn’t crack Golden State’s playoff rotation. Have I mentioned how excited I am for this tank job?
Their Defense: This season is more or less an exercise in figuring out whether or not Taurean Prince can be the next DeMarre Carroll. The stakes have never been higher!
Their Bench: In one offseason, the Hawks somehow wound up with the worst Collins in the draft (John rather than Zach) and the worst Plumlee in the Plumlee-verse (Miles). If you want to count Marco Belinelli as a shabby Manu Ginóbili, Atlanta’s bench basically becomes a cover band.
Best Case Scenario: Gets the No. 1 pick.
Worst Case Scenario: Budenholzer is too good a coach for a proper tank, and Atlanta winds up picking something like seventh.