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Monday, 18 September 2017 14:14

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics: CLNS Celtics Newsfeed's 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks | Powered by CLNS Media

The Atlanta Hawks

2016-17 Round-up: The Atlanta Hawks finished the 2016-17 season 53-49, earning the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. During the year, Atlanta defeated Boston twice, including a 16-point drubbing at TD Garden that saw Isaiah Thomas shoot 4-of-21 and Dennis Schroeder run amok for 21 points.


The Hawks fell behind 2-0 to No. 4 Washington, before knotting things back up with a return trip home for Games 3 and 4. Despite strong postseasons by Schroeder and Paul Millsap, the Wizards won the next two games to take the series and put an end to the 2016-17 Hawks and kickstart a busy offseason.


Offseason Grades: A trip down the 2016-17 Atlanta Hawks page on Basketball Reference is a doozy. Of the top five players listed, only Schroeder returns for the coming season.


Kyle Korver was traded midseason to Cleveland for Mike Dunleavy and Mo Williams, both of whom have since been waived.


On June 20, Dwight Howard, after spending just one season with the Hawks, was traded to Charlotte, along with Atlanta’s No. 31 overall pick in exchange for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and the 41st pick. Howard posted 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and two blocks in nearly 30 minutes a night for the Hawks.


Next up was the strange situation with Tim Hardaway Jr. A restricted free agent, Hardaway went out and got himself a huge offer from the New York Knicks. Atlanta had the chance to match it, but at four years and $71 million, it politely declined and sent hos 14.5 points per game to his original NBA home in NYC.


Finally, the whopper in this offseason exodus was Paul Millsap, who posted over 18 points per game to go along with 7.7 rebounds. Millsap was a free agent this summer, and probably the biggest or second biggest name on the market alongside Boston’s Gordon Hayward. However, at age 32, the market shrunk a bit. Millsap still found a new home in Denver, though, with the Nuggets shelling out an AAV of $30 million over three years.


In June’s draft, Atlanta grabbed John Collins (No. 19), Tyler Dorsey (No. 41) and Alpha Kaba (No. 60). Collins and Dorsey have signed NBA contracts. From there, the Hawks made some definite tanking moves in inking short-term contracts with Ersan Ilyasova (one year, $6 million), Dewayne Dedmon (two years, $14 million), Mike Muscala (two years, $10 million) and Luke Babbitt (one year, $1.9 million).


One strong move the Hawks appeared to make this offseason, was hiring Travis Schlenk from Golden State to serve as the team’s general manager. Schlenk was an assistant GM with the Warriors before coming to Atlanta in May.


Training Camp Questions: The big question for this season’s training camp in Atlanta will tell us just how long the Hawks rebuild is possibly going to take. Rookie John Collins had a handful of monster Summer League performances, averaging 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. But the Hawks still thought it necessary to bring back Ilyasova in the frontcourt and sign seven-footer Dewayne Dedmon from San Antonio, so the confidence isn’t there yet.


If Collins can play, he’ll join promising youngsters DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince alongside the still under-25 Schroeder in forming a potentially-excited core. Schroeder turns 24 in September and has improved with each of his four NBA seasons, averaging 18 points and six assists a night last season, shooting 45.1 percent from the floor and 34 percent from three. He is under contract through 2021 at just over $15 million a year.


Projected Starting Five:

PG: Dennis Schroeder

SG: Kent Bazemore

SF: DeAndre Bembry

PF: Ersan Ilyasova

C: Dewayne Dedmon


Next Move They Make: The Hawks are likely stuck where they’re going to be for now. Schlenk has already made his mark and looks to be moving towards youth and gunning for a high lottery pick this season. At $12.5 million a year through 2020, Miles Plumlee is a salary albatross that will make trades even more difficult.


How they Beat the Boston Celtics: The Hawks-Celtics matchups a year ago were interesting ones. For a stretch of the season is could be seen as a potential first-round battle in the postseason, and Atlanta’s rebounding advantage gave Celtics fans real concern. On top of that, the mini-feud between Isaiah Thomas and Schroeder could ignite some real fire.


In 2017-18, these are two teams heading in different directions and I don’t see the matchups being nearly as interesting. Schroeder is still a real difficult cover, especially without Avery Bradley around, but the real story behind those Hawks wins last year was rebounding and with Millsap and Howard replaced by Ilyasova, Dedmon and maybe Collins, Al Horford should have a bit more fun playing his old squad.


Trending: I’m worried about Atlanta. They appear to have drafted pretty well, but were doing so in the mid-first round. Now comes the real test, finding a star to pair with Schroeder for the future. If the Hawks can’t get that player in the next two years, they might miss the window of building something real and sustainable.


Final Record/Standings Prediction: 23-59, 14th in Eastern Conference

Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is the CLNS Media Network's Boston Celtics Content and Newsfeed Manager.

Mike is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in sports communications. He spent three years as a NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, where he was the site's top Boston Celtics writer.

Mike is a full-time sports writer with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. He can be reached by email to MikeW@CLNSMedia.com or via Twitter @CLNS_Walsh.

Personal Website: www.WalshWrites.com