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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2017-18 Atlanta Hawks Preview: Power Forward

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.

Continuing on with our series, we’ll focus on the power forward position.


Power Forward

Last Season’s Stats:

Ersan Ilyasova (82 games with OKC, PHI, and ATL): 26.1 MPG, 43.1 FG%, 35.3 3P%, 77.8 FT%, 5.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.4 TOPG, 2.6 PFPG, 13.1 PPG

John Collins (33 games at Wake Forest): 26.6 MPG, 62.2 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 74.5 FT%, 9.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.8 TOPG, 3.0 PFPG, 19.2 PPG

De’Andre Bembry: 9.8 MPG, 48.0 FG%, 5.6% 3P%, 37.5 FT%, 1.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 0.4 TOPG, 0.6 PFPG, 2.7 PPG


The longest tenured NBA player on the Atlanta Hawks, Ersan Ilyasova has played a lot of NBA minutes. The 12-year NBA veteran has played for 5 NBA teams over his career, and has been a very stable presence on every team he has been on. He fits into this Hawks team as a stretch 4/5 offensively in small lineups with his 3-point shooting ability, and his ability to take charges (he led the league with 36 taken) is at an elite level.

Ilyasova is not necessarily known as an elite level defender on or off the ball, but he can rotate with the best of defenders, so he can be at least passable on that end of the floor. His true value is on the offensive end as a floor spacer and shooter, as well as a player who can swing the ball around and isn’t a ball hog. If Ilyasova can provide that value for 70-75 games this upcoming season, he will be a very valuable piece for this young Hawks squad.

John Collins, the Hawks’ first round pick from the 2017 draft, is probably the most intriguing player on the 2017-18 version of the Atlanta Hawks. His high-flying dunk show that he put on at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League earned him the Twitter nickname “John the Baptist”. Collins is extremely raw as a prospect, even though his collegiate numbers suggest that he was quite dominant. Those numbers from Wake Forest show that Collins was dominate, but not necessarily in a skillset-based manner.

At 6’11” with freaky athleticism, Collins would use that athleticism to score over smaller collegiate defenders. He won’t be able to do that as much at the professional level, so scoring in the post will be a struggle for him. He will thrive in the short roll game, as his athleticism will be utilized heavily on lobs and catches in the paint.

Defensively, Collins was never too awfully aware of defensive concepts under Danny Manning at Wake Forest, but judging from his Summer League performance, he can be passable on that end of the floor, and perhaps with some coaching from Mike Budenholzer, who has led the Hawks into having top-10 defenses over the last few seasons, he can be quite serviceable.

Look for Collins to be pick and roll forward with elite athleticism and rebounding, with a passable defensive skillset.

De’Andre Bembry is one of the most versatile players on the Hawks’ roster. He is going to play every position except for center on the Hawks this season, depending on the lineup composition that Budenholzer goes with. Bembry is 6’7”, but has both guard and forward skills that are valuable to a team looking for versatility on the bench units.

Bembry has a capable jumper, even when the numbers don’t necessarily bear that out last season, and he can handle the ball on the second unit, which already makes him an important player to the Hawks. Bembry is also a very good defender on the perimeter, especially in moving his feet to stay in front of quicker guards. That offensive capability and the defensive stinginess make for an interesting combination that makes Bembry one of the more intriguing pieces on the Hawks’ team.

Overall, the two young guys, Collins and Bembry, are two of the more intriguing players on this Hawks team. Their development is going to be crucial this season in regard to seasons in the future. With Ilyasova’s veteran leadership, this group is one to watch as far as future development is concerned.

Look for Ilyasova to be the starter day one, with a potential trade for assets around the trade deadline, allowing Collins to gain the lion’s share of those vacated minutes. Those hypothetical minutes will be crucial to Collins’ development, which is one of the top priorities of this upcoming season.

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