Hawks Open Season In Transition

 

10.25.17

Atlanta – “Please excuse our dust” is a funny phrase often used by companies in the process of renovating their physical space.  Most companies remain open for business as consumers wade through dust, detours, and alterations as a result of the renovation.  The same holds true for roadways as travelers must find their way around the latest road closure to reach their destination.  The 2017-2018 Atlanta Hawks enter a season fitting of this description.  Seemingly, the only constant during this Hawks off-season was change but the Hawks are hoping change is for the better. Last season, the Hawks began to feel the tides change as gone were veterans Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and by the end of the season Kyle Korver.  This past off-season witnessed the departure of long time Hawk and leading scorer Paul Millsap as well as  Dwight Howard after a brief 1-year stint in his hometown.

Budenholzer returns to lead a young Hawks team. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For Owner, Tony Ressler, and the Atlanta Hawks ownership, it was obvious that re-construction of the organization was in order and it could mean some growing pains for a city used to playoff basketball (Atlanta is 2nd in the league in consecutive playoff appearances with 10). Atlanta faced a similar fate when considering its most recent coaching hire.  In searching for a new head coach after Larry Drew’s tenure on the bench the Hawks decided to go with what works and hired the top assistant from one of the most successful franchises in league history: the San Antonio Spurs.  Mike Budenholzer assumed the reins and was named 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year.  In similar fashion, the Hawks ownership found the next visionary for the franchise when it hired Travis Schlenk as general manager before the 2017-18 season. Schlenk’s task was to guide the franchise through a period of transition from aging yet well-regarded stars to a much younger version that will eventually compete for titles. That task would begin from day 1. The new look Atlanta Hawks are now assembled and ready to proceed according to Schlenk’s plan and under Budenholzer’s direction.

 

Strongholds

The only true resemblance of the Hawks’ recent playoff run is the backcourt tandem of Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore.  Armed with hefty contract extensions, the duo is expected to provide steady play with the right balance of excitement in leading one of the youngest rosters in the league.  Schroder, admired for his tenacity, fearlessness, and ultra quick step, must now mature into the veteran leader Budenholzer can depend on to keep Atlanta within striking distance for the balance of the season.   Bazemore, on the other hand, is aiming to be included in the conversation as one of the top guards in the Eastern Conference.  Improved consistency offensively in conjunction with his already stellar defensive prowess should make Bazemore a mainstay in Atlanta.

Lead? Schroder must do so this season.

Newcomers

Draft night 2017 introduced the next batch of young stars to Atlanta.  Alpha Kaba (Serbia) and Tyler Dorsey (Oregon) were key 2nd round selections but the most important pick of the day for the organization was at number 19 in round 1.  With the selection of John Collins, an All-ACC selection, the Atlanta Hawks officially broke ground on what they hope to be the creation of a wonderful new franchise.  The 6’10” forward is incredibly athletic and although he still needs work offensively, has shown a great knowledge of the game.  Perhaps this is due to the tutelage of Danny Manning (the former NCAA Player of the Year was Collins’ head coach at Wake Forest) but whatever the case, Collins’ upside says Schlenk and the Hawks are off to a good start.

 

Blossoms

Perhaps the most important piece of Atlanta’s reconstruction project is the development of 2nd-year players and recent additions.  In order to keep the reconstruction from resembling a total rebuild, the Hawks need guys like DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince (both 2016 draft picks) to blossom into full-scale NBA wings.  The loss of sharpshooting Kyle Korver, Millsap, and Tim Hardaway’s exit for New York made their development exceedingly necessary and for the Hawks to compete this season, the two athletic wings will need to grow up fast.  Atlanta will also rely on Dewayne Dedmon and Marco Belinelli, recent veteran additions, to contribute heavily this season as the organization looks to use 2017-2018 as the foundation for a big jump the following season.

 

In sum, Atlanta Hawks fans can count on a few things this winter.  The Hawks will be a young and exciting collection of youthful faces finding its way through the gauntlet that is the NBA.  They will continually give great effort and, under the leadership of Budenholzer, always be prepared for battle each night.  However, an ability to recognize reality will be just as important for the city of Atlanta because it’s one thing to be young and exciting but it’s another to battle James, Wall, Antetokounmpo, and the loaded Western Conference with an inexperienced roster.  There’s more work to do on this construction project but once the dust settles, fans will be in for a treat walking into Philips Arena. Speaking of Philips Arena, did I mention the building is undergoing an offseason renovation to the tune of just over 192 million dollars?

 

Please excuse the dust Atlanta.  Your Hawks are coming soon!

 

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