The Hawks were in a significant bind in this year’s free agency chaos. They strived to keep Al Horford and Kent Bazemore, sign Dwight Howard, and trade Paul Millsap for young role players and picks. However, after Horford chose the Celtics, that whole plan was burned to the ground.
Now, the Hawks will look in a different direction from last year. No more Teague-Horford pick-n-pop screen plays, no more live and die from the 3, and no more lobsided rebounding performances such as in game 3 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. the Cavaliers.
For all the love Al Horford received in the playoffs, he didn’t show up until game 3 where he combined with Millsap for 9 rebounds.
Millsap had 8 of them.
Horford struggled to keep Thompson at bay in that series, and the Hawks suffered while gifting the Cavaliers an abundant amount of chances on the offensive end. Horford only averaged 3.5 rebounds a game against the Cavaliers in that series. His offensive to defensive net rating was -25.9 and had a point differential of -16.
The Cavs are not a push over, of course. They would go on to win the NBA Finals vs. the record-breaking Warriors. However, the Hawks should be able to steal at least a game from the Cavs. The Cavaliers can’t break the 3’s record every game.
Unfortunately, the Hawks were swept. They move on without Horford and with Dwight Howard.
As much as people don’t want to believe it, Howard is still a great center.
He is not a shooter or a phenomenal scorer, but he’s a force on the boards and a dangerous threat in pick-n-roll situations.
The Hawks’ offensive rebounding rate last year was 19.1%, last in the NBA. Dwight Howard was over 11% by himself with 3.4 offensive rebounds a game (T-4th in the NBA).
Also, even with the horrendous Rockets getting into the playoffs and losing the Warriors in 5 games, Dwight Howard was their best player in that series.
Howard had double-digit points and rebounds in 4 of the 5 games, and the game he had only 8 points he had 21 rebounds, 11 of them offensive.
In addition to the Rockets getting blown out 3 out of the 5 games, Howard still only had -17.2 point differential, only 1.2 worse than Horford vs. the Cavs. Also, Howard averaged 5.8 offensive rebounds a game while Horford only averaged 3.5 rebounds a game.
Tristan Thompson is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA, but Horford had to stop the bleeding at some point. In Horford’s defense, he’s a true power forward making him fit Boston much better.
However, Howard’s paint presence will impart a much harder task for Thompson.
Nonetheless, Howard is not a good shooter, and Horford can stretch the floor much better. There are not going to be anymore pick-n-pop shots for Howard with Schroeder, but the Schroeder repeated lobs off of pick-n-rolls is something much more likely and more deadly.
That has always been Howard’s forte, and he has killed great centers including DeAndre Jordan with it.
I get it, Howard is older, has knee problems, and lost some of that athletic freakness from 10 years ago; however, he still produces day in and day out.
Whether it is the transition dunk, turn around baseline right hook, or a lob off of a screen, Dwight Howard can be dangerous for Atlanta.
The Hawks are not going to be able to shoot as much from deep, but that could work in their favor. They shot 59.3% from less than 5 feet (12th in the NBA) while Howard shot nearly 70%.
Howard’s post game is a bit questionable, but it is still a quality option to get points and another way to spread the floor to open up shooters.
This most likely means Paul Millsap takes more 3’s and Kent Bazemore can even take over the offense more if Schroeder is not on the floor.
Frankly, Schroeder does not completely fit Budenholzer’s desire of a shooting point guard, but Schroeder can still score off the bounce effectively and often.
This team could possibly revolve its offense around Howard or use him as a second or third option off of a screen if Millsap can’t get going.
Horford will be missed, but Howard is as good as a replacement the Hawks could want. Howard is no Horford, and that is going to work in the Hawks favor.