The Atlanta Hawks’ offseason and how the Pistons match up

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 22: Dennis Schroder
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 22: Dennis Schroder /

The Atlanta Hawks’ fall from grace arrived earlier than expected. Their roster has been completely gutted since the end of last season. Atlanta has begun the rebuilding process. Here’s how they match up against the Detroit Pistons.

Three years ago, the Atlanta Hawks were one of the better stories in the NBA.

They finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 60-22. Four Hawks were named to the 2015 All-Star team. Mike Budenholzer was awarded Coach of the Year. For the first time since moving to Atlanta in 1968, the Hawks advanced to the Conference Finals.

Fast forward to today, and the 2014-15 season feels like a lifetime ago.

Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll and Al Hordford are all long gone.

Paul Millsap? Signed with Denver.

Dwight Howard? Signed with Charlotte.

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Kyle Korver? Traded to Cleveland last season for Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams and a future first round pick. Dunleavy was waived back in June. Williams was technically retired, but never filled out the official paperwork. He hasn’t played since Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and Mike Muscala are the only players who remain from the 2014-15 club. There are plenty of new faces in Atlanta. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how they match up against the Detroit Pistons.

Take it from the top

Presumably, Atlanta’s starting back court will consist of Schroder and Bazemore.

Dennis was given the keys to the offense at the beginning of last season. He became the man once Atlanta traded Teague during the summer of 2016. The longest-tenured Hawk had himself a fine season in 2016-17.

Schroder quietly averaged 17.9 points, 6.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. He shot 45 percent from the floor and 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s a crafty scorer who can finish at the rim with either hand. Schroder’s play isn’t always pretty, but he gets the job done.

To put his numbers into perspective, consider this: Reggie Jackson averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game in 2015-16.

Both men have proven that they can play at a high level. It’s consistency that is the issue with Schroder and Jackson. They’re not top-tier point guards. That’s just the reality.

But when these two are at their best, opposing teams struggle to contain their penetration.

The advantage at point guard could go either way between the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. It all depends on whether Jackson can return to form, and if Schroder can maintain his recent success.

Related Story: NBA Math ranks the Pistons roster

Mind the gap

While the match-up at point guard is very close, there’s a considerable amount of distance between each club’s starting shooting guard.

Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore will most likely revert back to his original role. He’s been the starting small forward since Carroll’s departure in 2015. But he’s only 6’5″, which is short for a player at that position.

Bazemore is naturally a shooting guard, and should return to that spot with Tim Hardaway Jr. back in New York. Atlanta will rely on him for his defense, and Bazemore (11.0 points per game) should see an uptick in touches and scoring.

But Bazemore will have his hands full trying to stay in front of Detroit’s new shooting guard.

Avery Bradley has blossomed into one of the NBA’s better two-way players. The 6’2″ combo guard averaged a career high 16.3 points per game with the Celtics last season.

Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons /

Detroit Pistons

Somehow, Bradley was able to co-exist alongside a ball dominant point guard in Isaiah Thomas. He’s walking into a similar situation with Reggie Jackson. That’s not ideal for most two-guards, but Bradley has made it work before. He should have no problem adapting to Jackson’s style.

Yet, offense really isn’t his strong suit. Bradley’s calling card remains his defensive prowess. He’s been named to the All-Defensive Team twice in his career, and that number will surely grow as the years go on.

Reliable defenders are hard to come by. Reliable defenders who can guard the perimeter? Those are few and far between. Expect Detroit’s back court to have the upper hand.


The Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks each finished within the top 10 when it came to rebounds per game last season. Detroit ranked 4th overall with an average of 45.7. Atlanta came in at 9th while grabbing an average of 44.3.

That’s all about to change for the Hawks. Dwight Howard (12.7) and Paul Millsap (7.7) averaged a combined 20.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17. As I mentioned earlier, they each parted ways with the franchise in the off-season.

Not only have the Hawks lost their rebounding edge, they’ve lost their starting front court. The addition of seven footer Dwayne Dedmon should help in that department. His per 36 rebounding average of 13.4 is encouraging. But those numbers can be misleading, since they’re merely projections.

So just as you would expect, Detroit easily has Atlanta beat on the glass. Andre Drummond should feast without having to worry about Howard patrolling the paint. Dedmon is no slouch. However, he won’t be able to replicate Superman’s athleticism.

Detroit would be wise to have their wing players crash the boards as much as possible. Atlanta is significantly weaker inside. They’ll do their best to box out Drummond. But having multiple Pistons in the lane might be too much for the Hawks bear.

A must win

Detroit and Atlanta will meet four times this upcoming season. If the Pistons truly want to take the next step forward, they can do so by winning the season series against Atlanta. That means, at the very least, going 3-1 against the less talented Hawks.

The Detroit Pistons have struggled to beat mediocre clubs as of late. Bad losses to the Nets, Magic and Knicks killed their playoff chances last year. Simply put, you can’t afford to lose to the bottom feeders. Especially in a conference as putrid as this one.

Good teams take care of business against the bad ones. Detroit hasn’t shown the ability to do that just yet. But who knows? This season could be different.

Next: Pistons Film: Reggie Jackson in transition

As a matter of fact, it has to be.