If Atlanta can improve on its defense, they should have plenty of scoring to make them a potent team in the East. in assists per game, handing out 24.9 (only San Antonio, where Budenholzer spent 19 years, 17 as an assistant coach, had more apgs at, 25.2). The Hawks had at least 20 assists 74 times, at least 25 in 41 games and at least 30 on 13 occasions. They were 12-1 in the latter. But the number 13 wasn’t necessarily lucky, as that’s where they finished in both field goal percentage (.45.7) and three-point field goal percentage (.363), which led to a 14th-place finish in scoring (101.0 ppg). Atlanta basically lived and died by its ability to make the three and on the whole they lived quite well, canning 768 three-pointers, going for double-digit threes 35 times, including a stretch of eight straight games—all club records. Korver was the big gun, hitting 185 Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images three-pointers, the fifth-best season in Atlanta history, and set an NBA record by hitting at least one in 127 consecutive games. Center Antic added 56 threes, the second-most by a rookie club history. The three-pointer was so infectious that even Millsap buried 76 of them in 212 tries—he’d been 35-for-113 in his first seven NBA seasons. When the three wasn’t falling, however, the Hawks struggled. With Antic mostly stationed behind the arc and Millsap spending some time out there as well, points in the paint were limited (Atlanta was 16th), as were offensive rebounds, as the Hawks averaged 8.7 orpg. While that was one more per game than Eastern Conference champs Miami, it was only 29th in the League and didn’t quite compensate for disparity in field goal percentage—the Hawks shot 45.7 vs. Miami’s 50.1. Spreading the floor did open things up for Teague, who in his fifth season averaged a career-best 16.7 points while handing out 6.7 assists. Teague went for 13 double-doubles, including a streak of four games in a row for the first time since 1993 (when Mookie Blaylock did it). Teague and dynamic secondyear pro Dennis Schröder will have plenty of options, in Millsap, Korver, Horford, Antic, Carroll, who had 11.3 points in 73 starts, both career-bests, and third-year pros Mike Scott, and John Jenkins, who missed most of the year with injuries but need to be more careful with the ball, as their 14.5 turnovers were ninthhighest in the League. Outlook The Hawks’ near-miss in their first-round playoff series against Indiana ended the first year of the Mike Budenholzer Era with high hopes for Year Two. Those hopes are still there even with the off-season PR nightmare, and nothing cures a crisis quite like winning. The Hawks can be explosive and a defensive nightmare. But changing “can be” to “are” is a matter of consistency, especially in shooting and cutting down turnovers. Atlanta needs to show that if it is to have any chance of staying near the top of the very tough and improving Southeast Division. A healthy Horford, the ever-consistent Korver and the ascending play of Teague should push this team above .500, while Millsap and Carroll, both in contract years, keep the Hawks in the race for the Southeast and the playoffs. The bench and the bigs need to bring it every night, as margin for error is slight. SPOTLIGHT: Paul Millsap When the Atlanta Hawks acquired Millsap prior to last season, they knew they were getting a special player—he averaged a near-doubledouble each of his seven years in Utah. What they didn’t know was how special and how versatile he could be. At 6-8, 245, Millsap had the body type and game reminiscent to another Louisiana Tech alum, who also starred for many years in Utah at the four, Karl Malone. But Millsap did something “The Mailman” was never asked to do, move out to the three-point line, and as a result, had his most productive year ever behind the arc. Millsap’s productivity wasn’t just from long range. He was the Hawks’ inside game and its presence both offensively and defensively. He led the team in scoring (17.9 ppg), rebounding (8.5 rpg, including a career-best 6.4 on the defensive end), steals (1.74 spg, ninth in the entire NBA), was fourth—tops among non-guards—in assists (3.1 apg), third in steals per game (1.1) and second in blocks (77). He earned the respect of Eastern Conference coaches, as they selected him to his first All-Star Game, where he scored six points on 3-for-5 shooting, grabbed three rebounds and handed out an assist in 15 minutes. He’d finish the season as the only player in the entire NBA to average 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. It’ll be interesting to what kind of follow-up season he has to last year’s break-out campaign.
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