2013--14 RECORD: 38--44 (4TH IN SOUTHEAST) COACH: MIKE BUDENHOLZER (2ND SEASON WITH HAWKS)
No one should have been surprised that the dependable Paul Millsap thrived during the Hawks' turbulent 2013--14 season. The 6'8" power forward emerged as their primary scorer and leading rebounder after franchise center Al Horford's season-ending right-pectoral injury last December, earning his first All-Star nod. Millsap's strength has always been his versatile inside-outside game. His first year in coach Mike Budenholzer's spread offense, however, produced an important strategic tweak: Millsap slashed his attempts on inefficient long two-pointers and hoisted 212 threes—99 more than his total in seven seasons with the Jazz. Don't mistake the shift for mindless chucking; Millsap connected on a solid 35.8%.
His extended range will generate multiple ripple effects: Horford will get more room to work inside, point guard Jeff Teague will have better driving lanes, and NBA three-point king Kyle Korver will attract less defensive attention. Those four players fit Atlanta's vision for a pass-happy, perimeter-oriented attack, and their collective talent, if often underappreciated, is competitive within the conference.
Millsap, 29, is the only core player not under contract through 2015--16. After an off-season that included ownership infighting and general manager Danny Ferry's leave of absence over racist comments, the Hawks' ability to retain a frontcourt linchpin will be a key indicator of the franchise's health.
16.5 PPG; 6.7 APG; 43.8 FG%; 32.9 3FG%
12.0 PPG; 4.0 RPG; 47.5 FG%; 47.2 3FG%
11.1 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 47.0 FG%; 36.2 3FG%
17.9 PPG; 8.5 RPG; 3.1 APG; 46.1 FG%
18.6 PPG; 8.4 RPG; 1.5 BPG; 56.7 FG%
6.3 PPG; 3.6 RPG; 41.5 FG%; 31.6 3FG%
7.5 PPG; 3.7 APG; 41.7 FG%; 33.7 3FG%
Horford's return powers Atlanta to top 10 rankings on both offense and defense.
A shortage of depth spoils the Hawks' hopes for an eighth consecutive postseason appearance.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE HAWKS
Al Horford is one of the league's best centers. He's as solid as they come on both ends. Horford can be a No. 1 scoring option or blend in—he doesn't need to blow up your offense to get his points. If you play him straight up, he can beat you, and if you double-team him, he can make you pay with his passing. The biggest issue is keeping him on the court. [Horford played only 11 games in 2011--12 and 29 in '13--14 because of pectoral injuries.] ... Paul Millsap stepped up in Horford's absence and proved to be a terrific signing [at two years and $19 million]. His newfound three-point range helps in their system because they want to space the floor and create room for Jeff Teague to penetrate.... Rookie Adreian Payne is a stretch four who fits their spread concept well, and Mike Scott is another power forward who is trying to develop his range. But if Horford or Millsap goes down for any length of time, the Hawks are in trouble. Their bench is thin.... Teague is pretty good, not great—he is in the same category as the Hornets' Kemba Walker—and his shooting holds him back. His attacking mind-set is a strength.... They don't have an elite wing. Kyle Korver is a premier shooter but doesn't stand out in other areas. DeMarre Carroll is a role player. Thabo Sefolosha had a rough season with the Thunder. He has slipped enough that what he brings defensively doesn't make up for his offensive limitations.... They could really use regular production from Kent Bazemore behind Korver, but there's not a lot of evidence to inspire hope. You can't live off a good summer league performance [in 2013] forever.
ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Korver fits nicely in a three-happy attack.