Trying to recover from losing one star player is extremely difficult in the current state of the NBA. Trying to recover from losing two is nearly impossible. Trying to recover from losing four All-Stars over the course of three offseasons? Never been done before.
The Atlanta Hawks are trying to do the impossible and recover from the losses of four All Stars from their 2014-15 roster (Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver), and they have some young prospects as well as wily veterans that might make the Hawks, led by one of the best tacticians in the league in Mike Budenholzer, a sneaky playoff contender in a weak Eastern Conference.
Wrapping up our series, we’ll focus on the center position.
Last Year’s Stats:
Dewayne Dedmon (76 games with SAS): 17.5 MPG, 62.2 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 69.9 FT%, 6.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, 2.4 PFPG, 5.1 PPG
Mike Muscala: 17.7 MPG, 50.4 FG%, 41.8 3P%, 76.6 FT%, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, 1.4 PFPG, 6.2 PPG
Miles Plumlee (45 games with MIL and CHA): 10.8 MPG, 47.8 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 64.1 FT%, 2.1 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 0.7 TOPG, 1.6 PFPG, 2.5 PPG
Dewayne Dedmon, coming from the San Antonio Spurs’ system, is quite familiar with what Mike Budenholzer is trying to do system-wise. Dedmon is a defensively-focused player, which is something that the Hawks lack on the roster outside of him, so it will be important for Dedmon to stay out of foul trouble in order to be that rim protector. Dedmon is also being told by the coaching staff to actually shoot rhythm three-pointers from the corners, which he actually looks comfortable doing. Dedmon’s primary role on this Hawks team is to be a rim protector first, a dive man on the pick and roll second, and a spot-up shooter third, and if he can be above-average on the first two and average on the third, the Hawks should be ecstatic, considering Dedmon has only attempted one three-pointer in his four-year NBA career. Dedmon can be elite defensively, and will be the starter day one as the only defensively minded center.
Coming off of a career year in his contract season, Mike Muscala is looking to take that next step towards being an elite stretch-5 option for the Hawks. After receiving a 1-year contract with a second-year player option, Muscala is looking to show out in another contract season as the best shooting big man that the Hawks currently have on the roster. His 41.8 3P% last season was elite for a player that stands 6’11”, and that shooting touch from deep is Muscala’s real value to the Hawks. If Muscala can maintain that high mark shooting, then he’s due for a major payday, looking at a contract that could potentially exceed $10 million per season. Nevertheless, look for Muscala to be a replacement level defender with a high-level jumper in a bench role at both the 4 and the 5, especially paired with Dedmon.
In the history of the NBA, there have been plenty of bad contracts handed out. Not many have ever been worse than the 4 years, $50 million deal that Miles Plumlee received from Milwaukee during the offseason of 2016. The contract is regarded by most as one of the worst because of the lack of production that Plumlee has had in his career, especially last year in the first season of his new contract. Plumlee will have to play simply because of his contract, but he probably shouldn’t due to his subpar play on both ends of the floor. Look for Plumlee to play sparingly and struggle to contribute throughout the majority of the season.
Overall, the two playable centers on the Hawks roster actually complement each other very nicely, with Dedmon playing the rim protector role and Muscala as the pick-and-pop shooter. Look for those two players to share the majority of minutes at the center position, with Plumlee stealing a few minutes and being relatively unproductive.