“Respect This Hustle”: 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Jeff Teague (Scott Cunningham:Getty Images)
Jeff Teague’s dominance will determine how high the Hawks fly in 2015-16. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Last season: 60-22, 1st, Southeast Division (1st, Eastern Conference), Lost 4-0 to CLE in Conference Finals

Notable Acquisitions: C Walter Tavares (2014 Draft Pick), F/C Tiago Splitter (via trade w/ SAS), G/F Tim Hardaway Jr. (via trade w/ NYK), G/F Justin Holiday (free agent, GSW)

Draft Picks: G Marcus Eriksson (Sweden, 50th overall), F Dimitrios Agravanis (Greece, 59th overall)

Notable Losses: F DeMarre Carroll (TOR), C Pero Antic (Fenerbache), John Jenkins (DAL),


Top DOGs: Al Horford, Paul Millsap

Star UnderDOGs: Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague

Burning Question: How will the Hawks fill the tremendous hole left by DeMarre Carroll?


DeMarre Carroll was the heart and soul of the Hawks during their historic 60-win season a year ago. Though he was the only member of the starting five not named to the All-Star team, Carroll was the team’s top perimeter defender and shot very well from beyond the arc.

Thabo Sefolosha is the top candidate to start but look for Kent Bazemore & Tim Hardaway Jr. (pictured) to get extended looks from Coach Mike Budenholzer.


What an unceremonious finish to a semi-banner year for the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks. After key injuries to DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver (courtesy of Matthew Dellavedova -_-), LeBron James and the Cavs dispatched the Hawks without much trouble.

60 wins. Division Title. 1st seed in the Eastern Conference. Swept.

Following their incredible regular-season success (four All-Stars, Coach of the Year, etc.), Atlanta went from perennially mediocre to a legitimate championship contender. Now, however, winning it all seems a bit out of reach, especially with Carroll’s departure.

Coach Bud is tasked with picking up the pieces and discovering the right blend of players to produce another productive campaign. Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and emerging point guard Jeff Teague all had excellent seasons playing under Budenholzer’s three-point heavy, equal opportunity offensive strategy. Korver had a near-historic 50-50-90 shooting year and became the focal point of most defenses.

The Hawks truly turned into the “Spurs of the East,” placing a premium on ball movement, outside shooting and relying on great depth. Everyone across the roster is capable of doing damage.

Atlanta’s bench unit transformed into of the smoothest lineups around. Led by ultra-quick point guard Dennis Schröder, Atlanta usually built its lead when the starters rested.

Schröder made a nice jump in his sophomore campaign, averaging 10 points and 4 assists to go along with tough defense on the perimeter. Without Carroll, expect Coach Bud to play both Schröder and Teague together to push the break for easy scores.

Look for Coach Bud's torrid pace to be even faster in 2015-16. (Getty Images)
Look for Coach Bud’s torrid pace to be even faster in 2015-16. (Getty Images)

On the front line, Horford and Millsap were a deadly duo, once again. Millsap is as versatile a power forward around…he even added range on his jumper (shot 36% from deep) to stretch out defenders.

New acquisitions Tiago Splitter and Walter “Edy” Tavares (7’3, 2014 2nd-Round pick) should help protect the rim and corral boards, two areas ATL struggled in. Though the Hawks feature nice individual defenders, they did not have the personnel to finish off plays or force bad shots without fouling.

With limited upside as a team and a target on their backs, Atlanta might have difficulty duplicating the same level of success in 2015-16. They are a deep team, on paper, but unless Teague takes makes a huge jump and becomes a top 5 PG, a title is not on the horizon.

ATL is building the right way though, which could pay off down the line.

One thing is certain: the Hawks are comfortable playing the UnderDOG role. In fact, we’re betting it’s right where they want to be heading into another interesting season.

Projected Starting 5:

Depth Chart:

PG: Teague-Schröder-Mack

SG: Korver-Hardaway Jr.

SF: Sefolosha-Bazemore-Holiday

PF: Millsap-Scott

C: Horford-Splitter-Muscala-Tavares

-Sefolosha should step in right away and provide similar defensive intensity at small forward; Hardaway Jr., the primary backup at both wing spots, could have a breakout year in Coach Bud’s uptempo, three-point happy system; keep an eye out for Bazemore, who is both a capable defender and scorer

-Tavares is listed as the fourth-string center but could play a significant role in 2015-16 as a shot-blocker and offensive rebounder (ATL ranked 28th in rebounding last season)

-ATL is experimenting with crazy lineups during the preseason; Teague-Korver-Millsap/Horford-Splitter-Tavares is a matchup problem waiting to happen for opponents; they’ll lose some speed and playmaking but protecting the paint won’t be an issue

Key UnderDOGS:

F/C Mike Muscala 

Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat

“Moose” broke out during the postseason last year, most notably during ATL’s second-round series versus the Wizards. He’s a legit stretch four who is getting better and better at picking how to get his shots in the flow of the offense.

Muscula has to improve his discipline on D but will eventually supplant Mike Scott as the backup power forward.

G/F Shelvin Mack

Shelvin Mack (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

No matter what role he’s in, Shelvin Mack is always ready to play. Once used as Coach Bud’s insurance policy if Dennis Schröder committed an egregious turnover, Mack could see an uptick in playing time if the team decides to go small.

Though he only averaged a paltry 5.4 points in 2014-15, Mack is a great utility guard off the bench to initiate the offense and get buckets.


Hawks New Logo

The Hawks underwent a full re-brand over the summer, re-desinging their logo, jerseys, and color scheme. While the new “Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club” moniker is curious to say the least, that’s not the problem here.

The new duds are interesting…okay, they’re pretty awful:

Hawks New Jerseys

Maybe they’ll eventually become easy on the eyes but for now, ATL’s threads actually make these look acceptable!

Atlanta’s Best Case Scenario: Coach Bud maximizes his roster and returns to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Hawks are now Teague’s team, a concept fully embraced and encouraged by his teammates.

Mike Budenholzer

Atlanta’s Worst Case Scenario: The Hawks are regular-season warriors, yet again, but fall in the early rounds of the playoffs to more star-laden bunch.

Season Prediction:

2nd, Southeast Division (5th, Eastern Conference), First-Round Exit

“Won’t accept nuttin else, so respect this hustle.” – T.I.


-Jabari J.

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