Two Days Until the Atlanta Hawks’ Season

Monday, October 28, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks

We are counting down the days until the Hawks’ season-opener in Dallas by giving you 50 things to be excited about this year. With two days left, today’s reason is…

Player Development

The Hawks come into the 2013-14 season with a roster that has been in the league for an average of 4.3 NBA seasons, and their average age is 27. With a relatively young roster and a lot of new concepts being introduced, player development will be a huge factor in the Hawks’ success this season. The Hawks have almost an entirely new coaching staff, each of which is tasked with helping in the development of the roster. Head coach Mike Budenholzer spent 17 seasons on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio and learned a great deal about player development and maximizing players’ talents within the system.  Joining Coach Bud will be assistant coaches Darvin Ham, Quin Snyder, Jim Thomas, Taylor Jenkins and Kenny Atkinson (the lone assistant returning from last season).

Coach Ham spent the past two seasons as an assistant for the Lakers where he worked with two of the best bigs in the NBA in Andrew Bynum (pre-knee injury) and Dwight Howard. In Atlanta, Ham is working with the Hawks’ bigs and has spent this offseason and preseason trying to make their games more diverse. The Hawks have a number of talented frontcourt players, most notably Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Speaking with Horford and Millsap, they have said that Ham has been working with them all summer to help expand their offensive games, especially in the post. Horford has shown in the preseason an improved counter spin move to the baseline off of the left block, where he normally turns over his left shoulder and goes into the lane for the hook shot. If Horford and Millsap can continue to expand their repertoire of post moves, they will prove to be an even more effective frontcourt pairing. On the defensive side, the Hawks bigs are undersized in height so there will be a lot of emphasis on positioning, rotating, and pushing post-players off of the block.

Coaches Snyder and Atkinson each have experience as assistants and player development coaches in the NBA and overseas and will be working a lot with the Hawks’ perimeter players to further develop their skill sets, taking what they’ve learned from NBA styles and the international styles and imparting that to the players. The Hawks’ offense has to have shooters spacing the floor to be effective, and part of what the Hawks staff has to do is make all of the perimeter players for the Hawks consistent threats from three-point range. DeMarre Carroll in particular has shown a lot of growth in that regard from last year in Utah to this preseason in having better mechanics with his jumper.

With the pick-and-roll being such a vital part of the Hawks’ offense, Jeff Teague has spent a lot of time working on leading the pick-and-roll as the ball-handler and being more decisive about when to pass the ball and when to look for his shot. This preseason, Jeff has shown an improved mid-range jumper off the dribble, especially going to his left, which will add another dimension to the Hawks’ pick-and-roll attack. Teague has also said he’s had to work on getting himself in great shape this offseason in order to run the offense at the pace Coach Bud wants.

The young players on the Hawks like rookie Dennis Schröder and second year players Mike Scott, John Jenkins and Jared Cunningham are all still early in their development as NBA players. While Teague, Millsap, Horford and others are more concerned with fine-tuning their established skill sets, these players are still fully developing their overall games.

Jenkins is an excellent shooter and that figures to get him on the court in this offense and he’s improved his shooting off the dribble, especially the one-dribble pull-up when defenders chase him off the three-point line. Jenkins’ defense improved a great deal over the course of last season, but he still has a ways to go in becoming a more complete two-way player. Fellow two-guard Cunningham’s game is very raw and he has a lot of athleticism and is a streaky shooter that can get hot. Where he has to improve is in shot selection (finding his shot in the rhythm of the offense rather than forcing it) and staying focused on the defensive end of the floor. If they can improve in those areas, the Hawks will have an excellent rotation at the two-guard.

Schröder has come in and proven to be an excellent on-ball defender and has been very good leading the Hawks in transition. Developing his overall offensive game, especially making him a more consistent shooter from the perimeter and finisher at the rim, will be one of the biggest player development tasks this season. Dennis becoming more of an offensive threat will bring more opportunities for him to find minutes both backing up Teague and also, as we saw in the preseason, playing alongside Teague in a two point guard lineup.

Scott showed throughout the preseason that he is a very effective offensive player and he has expanded his shooting range to beyond the three-point arc and his post-game looks much crisper than it did last season. His biggest challenge comes on the defensive end where he sometimes struggles against larger opponents. Developing Scott into a more effective defensive player by working with him on positioning, beating his opponent to the block, and forcing opponents away from the paint would allow Mike to stay on the floor longer.

The Hawks have a lot of talent on the roster this season, and seeing how they develop that talent and maximize their strengths will be something to keep an eye on all year.

We also want your input. What are you most excited about this upcoming season.  Leave a comment below to let us know, and we may feature your idea in our countdown!

Day 50 – New Faces
Day 49 – First Pelicans Visit
Day 48 – Hawks Social Media
Day 47 – Dennis Schröder
Day 46 – Celebrities at Philips Arena
Day 45 – All-Star Game
Day 44 – Hawks Footwear
Day 43 – Sky Hawk and the Sky Squad
Day 42 – Bakersfield Jam
Day 41 – John Jenkins & Mike Scott
Day 40 – SkyView Atlanta
Day 39 – Drew and Pachulia’s Return
Day 38 – Junior Cheerleaders
Day 37 – Production Day
Day 36 – Hawks Intro Video
Day 35 – Overtime Games
Day 34 – Fan Experiences
Day 33 – Learning Foreign Languages
Day 32 – Gustavo Ayón
Day 31 – Open Practice
Day 30 – Live Streaming/Hawks.com
Day 29 – Ryan Cameron
Day 28 – Bob Rathbun & Dominique Wilkins
Day 27 – Paul Millsap
Day 26 – Hawks Shop
Day 25 – Players On Twitter
Day 24 – Kiss Cam
Day 23 – Hawks 6th Man
Day 22 – Harry The Hawk
Day 21 – Junior Cheerleaders
Day 20 – Hawks In Transition
Day 19 – Crazy Half-Court Shots at Halftime
Day 18 – DeMarre Carroll
Day 17 – Hawks Cheerleaders
Day 16 – Dunks
Day 15 – Al Horford’s Mid-Range Game
Day 14 – Friday Night Lights
Day 13 – MLK Day
Day 12 – Steve Holman and 92.9 The Game
Day 11 – Buzzer Beaters
Day 10 – Hawks Membership
Day 9 – Coach Bud Returns To San Antonio
Day 8 – Pick & Roll
Day 7 – Lou Williams’ Return
Day 6 – Three-Point Barrages
Day 5 – London
Day 4 – Kyle Korver’s Streak
Day 3 – Josh Smith’s Return

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE/Getty Images

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