The Atlanta Hawks have gone through a major offseason of change, and there are mixed feelings about what to expect from them looking ahead to next season. It certainly sets the stage for an entertaining storyline to keep an eye on, but the Hawks and their fans may not like the end result.
Al Horford left the Hawks to sign with the Boston Celtics in free agency. Atlanta thought there was a good chance to re-sign him, but the team was unable to seal the deal. Losing Horford is a tough blow, but not necessarily one that the Hawks can’t bounce back from.
Jeff Teague is also gone, after being traded to the Indiana Pacers in a three-team deal that netted Atlanta the draft rights to Taurean Prince. Dennis Schroder will be taking over the starting point guard role, and there are some question marks about what to expect from him.
Looking at the Hawks’ offseason additions, Dwight Howard is the big name that pops out. He was signed and will be tasked with replacing Horford and being a focal point of the Atlanta offense. There is no question that the Hawks provide him with a better situation than he had in Houston, but whether he has enough left in the tank to be the star big man that Atlanta needs remains to be seen.
All of that being said, what five way-too-early bold predictions can be made for the Atlanta Hawks’ 2016-17 NBA season?
Dwight Howard Will Successfully Shock the NBA
Even though he has received a lot of criticism over the last couple of years and pessimism since signing with the Hawks, Howard will power through and successfully shock the NBA. He will average at least 20 points per game and will chip in 10 rebounds and at least two blocks. Howard may not lead the Hawks to the NBA Finals, but he will put up bigger stats than many are expecting.
Dennis Schroder Will Slide Perfectly Into the Starting Lineup
Last year with the Hawks, Schroder took on a much bigger role and ended up averaging 11.0 points, 4.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. He will be asked to handle an even larger role this season with Teague gone. Schroder has been waiting for the starting job for quite some time and will slide into it with ease.
Atlanta Will Win at Least Five Fewer Games
There is still a chance that the Hawks will sneak into the playoffs, but it won’t be a 48-34 season this year. Atlanta will win at least five fewer games and will not finish with more than 43 wins for the season. Losing Horford and Teague will not be easy for the Hawks, and the transition will start off slow.
Kent Bazemore Will Prove the Hawks Right for His New Contract
Keeping Kent Bazemore was not cheap for the Hawks, and it ended up costing them a four-year, $70 million contract. It was a move that was necessary for Atlanta, but not too much of a surprise. His deal has received some criticism from around the league, but he will end up proving them right with a big year.
The Atlanta Hawks Will Make the Playoffs as the Seventh Seed
Atlanta will be competing with a few different teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. That being said, they will end up finishing in the No. 7 seed. Mike Budenholzer still has a lot of talent to work with and will find a way to put a playoff team together and have a chance to push their first round opponent.
Do you think the Atlanta Hawks will end up making the NBA Playoffs this season? Will Dwight Howard come through with a big year and finally get his career together? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
[AP Photo/Michael Dwyer]