Coming off of a franchise best season that saw them take the NBA by storm and eclipse the 60-win mark, the Atlanta Hawks enter the 2015-2016 season with mixed expectations. With 20 games (10 home and 10 away) to be played through October/November, reigning NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer and his squad will have a busy opening month of action.
A integral factor in the Hawks’ success last season came from the stellar play of small forward DeMarre Carroll, whose value truly went beyond the statistics. Among the league’s small forwards, Carroll ranked just outside the top ten at 11th in PER with 15.94, while ranking 40th among the same position in total USG rate at 15.5. He was a luxury for Coach Budenholzer on both ends of the court and his absence will be felt from the immediate start of the season.
Through November, the Hawks’ are set to square-off against the likes of the New York Knicks (Oct. 29th), Cleveland Cavaliers (Nov. 21st), San Antonio Spurs (Nov. 28th) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Nov. 30th). These are all teams with elite small forwards, the position which Atlanta lacks quality and depth the most. Though Kyle Korver will have his usual offensive impact, he is almost non-existent on the other end of the floor against these premiere wings. Kent Bazemore, Shelvin Mack, Lamar Patterson are the other wing players that round out the bench but none are a true solution. The one capable defender, Thabo Sefolosha, is coming off of a broken leg and may not be 100% himself until well into the season. This gap at the 3 spot may be a determining factor against the likes of the league’s top teams.
One key match-up to tune into early on will come on November 7th against the Washington Wizards. This rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference second round series will be played at the Philips Arena in Georgia and will come on the tail end of the Hawks’ third of six back-to-back sets throughout the month of November. Both teams have lost their impact small forwards in DeMarre Carroll and Paul Pierce this offseason and have unsuccessful in filling the gap accordingly. It will be a heated divisional match-up between Atlanta’s ball-moving offense and Washington’s hard-nosed team defence. These two quality Eastern Conference teams may very well meet again come April, and therefore their season series will be worth monitoring closely.
Courtesy of Bleacher Report