2015-16 NBA Record: 48-34
Additions: Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets), Jarrett Jack (Brooklyn Nets), DeAndre’ Bembry (draft), Taurean Prince (draft)
Subtractions: Al Horford (Boston Celtics), Jeff Teague (traded to Indiana Pacers)
Projected Starting Line-up:
PG – Dennis Schroder
SG – Kyle Korver
SF – Kent Bazemore
PF – Paul Millsap
C – Dwight Howard
Atlanta has always remained a consistent side with players like Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson contributing over the past decade, but this offseason they shook up their roster, adding Atlanta native Dwight Howard to replace the departing Al Horford, while Jeff Teague was traded to the Pacers due to the rise of Dennis Schroder. To be fair, the roster hasn’t completely changed, so they should still compete in the East. Mike Budenholzer has the responsibility of getting the most out of Dwight Howard after Howard left the Houston Rockets an unhappy man. Budenholzer is a great coach who turned this side into a polished offense and strong defensive side a few years ago.
Dwight Howard is the big free agent signing this offseason, as he returns to his hometown. A change of scenery should inspire Howard to get back to his best and all eyes will be on his chemistry with front-court partner Paul Millsap. Howard is a former three-time Defensive Player of the Year who has never averaged less than 10 rebounds a season in his 12-year career. Millsap is one of the top power forwards in the game with three consecutive All-Star game appearances and last season, scored in double figures in 75 out of 81 games. He’ll be the top offensive option with Horford and Teague gone, but as shown at the back end of last season, he may be starting to decline at the age of 31. He and Howard should form a formidable duo on the defensive end. Dennis Schroder looks to take the starting point guard role this season and he has the ability to set up teammates very well. If the Schroder experiment fails, they have veteran Jarrett Jack as back-up, which is quite handy. Kent Bazemore is an unheralded 3-and-D player who is improving each year. Last season, he shot 36% from downtown and made a career-high 109 three pointers. The Hawks were fortunate to get NBA-ready rookies in Taurean Prince and Deandre Bembry in the draft and both will be looking to contribute from the get-go. Kyle Korver will be looking to bounce back after shooting only 40% from three last year, as he shot 49% two years back. It looks as though Korver is slowing down in his career as he nears 36 years of age.
The only major changes to this side is the addition of Howard to replace Horford, as well as Teague’s departure. You could say they’ll be a slight regression, but I feel this side is still good enough to compete in the East. Howard’s signing solidifies a strong defense, while also helping in the rebounding department, which was a weakness the last few years. They have a nice assortment of wings, but do they have a good range of guards to compete? Can Dennis Schroder rise in his first year as starter? I like Mike Budenholzer as a coach and feel he can help Dwight get back to the form of his Orlando days. Therefore, I have this team making the playoffs.
Prediction: 1st in Southeast Division