The Atalanta Hawks came out of the All-star break uneven, losing two straight games before squeezing out a victory in their third. Atlanta dropped games to the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Layers (in blowout fashion) before defeating the Pacers 107-102 on Wednesday night. John Collins finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Following the plan:
On Monday, the Hawks officially waived forward Ersan Ilyasova as the two sides agreed to a buyout. Ilyasova averaged 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in 72 games with Atlanta. Ilyasova is set to join former Hawks teammate Marco Belinelli in Philadelphia with the 76ers.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer and general manager Travis Schlenk have the blueprint for how they want to rebuild this team. By getting rid of veterans this late in the season, the Hawks sole reason for playing out the season is development. They plan to let all the young players get as many minutes as possible. Additionally, they’ll give the veteran players that are left a chance to take more of a leadership role, with a team destined for a losing record.
Dennis Schroeder (19.4 ppg, 6.2 apg) has been on teams that have made the playoffs before. He will have to keep his teammates motivated to play through this rough stretch where the season will end with no rewards. Whatever his attitude is, the other players will follow suit. Schroeder, Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Deadmon will need to show the younger players how to be a professional and play these games like they are getting a paycheck.
After the moves, Taurean Prince and John Collins are now the third and fourth scorers on the Hawks and also the second and third on the team in rebounding. These two players are the Hawks’ future with both likely playing a major role on the 2018-2019 team.
Prince has hit a bit of a sophomore letdown. The potential after his rookie season was through the roof, but all that excitement has been tempered a bit. Collins continues to impress the team in small sample sizes. His natural progression should be fun to watch as he starts to understand positioning and movement without the ball.
The Hawks will have a lottery pick in the last draft before the NBA switches up the ping pong ball process. If the Hawks end up with the worst record they will have the best chance at the first overall pick. Atlanta in fact has three first round picks, one from the Minnesota Timberwolves and one from the Houston Rockets. With some good scouting Atlanta could add three talented players and possibly a future star to go alongside Schroeder. In any event, waiving two veteran players as the season comes towards the end signifies the Hawks aren’t in any rush to put together winning streaks. At this point, the more ping pong balls the better.