ATLANTA — The roster carousel was the hottest offseason Hawks topic, meaning it’s time to introduce you to the fresh faces – as well as a few familiar ones – on this roster.
Here’s what Hawks fans have to look forward to this season from this new-look roster:
Dennis Schroder, Guard
Tate’s Take: Doc Rivers. Mookie Blaylock. Spud Webb. Jason Terry. Mike Bibby. Jeff Teague. Schroder adds to the list of productive point Hawks’ guards. Now with the keys to the city, how will he lead a group of youthful talent and seasoned veterans as one of the few go-to players suiting up?
Teammates, and members of the front office, have raved this offseason about Schroder’s improved distance shooting and maturity, traits that have been questionable in the past. In two of three games played, Schroder has missed only a single free throw in 12 attempts, finished in the 20s in scoring and shot at least 50 percent from the field but only 1 for 9 from three. An ankle injury has sidelined him the past two games, but he should be ready to return soon. His presence is clearly missed.
Kent Bazemore, Guard
Tate’s Take: One would be hard-pressed not to mention last year’s disappointing season coming fresh off a contract year. It is however a brand new start and the slate has been wiped clean. Bazemore has continued to struggle with shooting; 30 percent from the field and behind the arc. I am sure we all can agree that a 14 points per game average on this team isn’t nearly enough considering its personnel.
Optimistically though, Bazemore seems to be back to playing more freely without displaying body language that is lacking confidence. Defensively, he is more active and leading vocally in and out of huddles. Scoring in double digits in all but the season opener will likely provide coaches and fans with a sense of security as the season progresses.
Taurean Prince, Forward
Tate’s Take: Last season, especially in the postseason, Prince took a major leap forward in production, ultimately leaving Hawks supporters wanting to see more from the rookie. Now that rook is entering his second year with a bigger role.
Prince will still, occasionally, make unforced errors and mistakes, but remember he’s still fine-tuning his game. His ability to play on the perimeter and face up on offense while continuing his fearless defense, could end up as proof he’s molding into a poor-man’s version of DeMarre Carroll.
Ersan Ilyasova, Forward
Tate’s Take: Over the years the NBA has slowly transitioned to a league filled with outside shooters. Not just any outside shooters, but tall bombers with the ability to tower over the opposition. That is Ilyasova’s trademark, and while he hasn’t particularly shot well this season, that could change with more reps coming off a knee injury.
The 9-year veteran has faced various schemes, been forced to guard some of the best talent at the forward position, and is physical on both ends of the floor. Rebounding has been a more consistent, yet often times overlooked, part of his game.
Dewayne Dedmon, Center
Tate’s Take: Dedmon’s experience may be the best part of what he brings to the Hawks’ table. After extended stints in Orlando, and a single season in the Spurs’ system, he seems like a pretty good fit for Atlanta. In the case that Dwight Howard wasn’t exactly what Atlanta had in mind last season from a productive standpoint (especially for the price), turning to Dedmon could give a better bang for the buck.
Dedmon also brings consistency in the rebounding category, not to mention a high motor that gets up and down the floor well and finishes at the basket with aggression.
What we have learned through five games:
This team will fight and compete all season. Don’t expect to see any quit or low effort and energy just because a more talented team on paper will be warming up on the other side. Home court is a particular area that Atlanta has defended for multiple seasons; don’t expect that to change without a fight.
Make no mistake, the Hawks aren’t last year’s Miami Heat team that nearly surprised the league with an unexpected playoff appearance after losing Dwyane Wade. However, this Atlanta team can match up from a roster perspective and close the gap.
Atlanta is currently in the upper half of the league in rebounding, a category it will have to excel in if it wants to add a number to the left side of the results column.
That is where the Hawks will have to turn to what I like to call D&E (defense and effort). Atlanta currently has the second-highest bench scoring in the NBA behind Sacramento and the Hawks lead the Eastern Conference.
Let’s look at the Hawks’ supporting cast:
Luke Babbitt, Forward
Tate’s Take: Speaking of last year’s Miami roster, Babbitt will provide a valuable asset for Coach Budenholzer: the ability to shoot from the outside. Although Babbitt doesn’t bring much else, he is a confident shooter. His playing time will correlate with how hot his hand can be.
John Collins, Forward
Tate’s Take: No question Collins is the brightest spot of all the Hawks’ new additions. In his first season as a pro he’ll look to prove he’s multi-dimensional. When you add skill/talent with unteachable intangibles such as effort, an underrated work-ethic, athleticism and activity on both ends, Collins is slowly looking like one of the steals of the June draft.
On Thursday Collins improved his value by putting himself into some exclusive company by recording his fifth block in just as many games. Adding two double-doubles in four games, the first Hawks rookie off the bench since Adam Keefe in 1993.
Marco Belinelli, Guard
Tate’s Take: Another high-volume shooting guard that has totaled four double-digit outings in five games.
DeAndre Bembry, Forward
Tate’s Take: Nobody would argue that this must be the breakout year for Bembry. Unfortunately, we will have to wait to see what the natural point-forward can do as he currently sits out with a wrist injury. It has been rumored that the coaching staff wants the ball in his hands more when Schroder is not in the game. But where his length is a valuable asset, so must be his play-making, defense and decision-making.
Malcolm Delaney, Guard
Tate’s Take: Delaney is as critical a piece as they come until Schroder returns. Not out of his element as a game manager, Delaney is a solid perpetrator and streaky shooter.
Mike Muscala, Forward
Tate’s Take: “Musky,” while not an every game minutes commander, is consistent. We saw that a year ago when he led in field-goal percentage.
Muscala did much of the heavy lifting, mid-range shooting and hustling last season, which led to second-chance points. Much of that won’t change this season. Anything you get from him will be a bonus, including his double-double Thursday in the Windy City.