Atlanta Hawks: 5 Players Who Must Step Up in 2013-14

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Atlanta Hawks: 5 Players Who Must Step Up in 2013-2014

Atlanta Hawks
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Last season, the Atlanta Hawks posted a 44-38 record, and had their postseason cut short by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, 4-2. Despite another early exit from the playoffs, the Hawks got to see their two All-Star big men in Josh Smith and Al Horford have a great year, but as always, everything good comes with an abrupt ending.

With J-Smoove now taking his immense athleticism and skill, along with his infamous ill-advised shot selection, to the city of Detroit, the Hawks will look to these five players to take their game to a whole different level in 2013-14.

In 2012, the Atlanta Hawks struck a deal with the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster trade that sent one of their best players away in Joe Johnson. For an encore, the Hawks allowed J-Smoove to walk away for nothing in 2013 as a free agent.

To make matters worse, instead of the Hawks accomplishing their mission in getting Dwight Howard to come back home, they had to settle for second- and third-tier players.

Although the Hawks still possess their All-Star center in Horford and a rising point guard in Jeff Teague, they still have a long way to go before becoming a team to be feared both offensively and defensively.

Along with their two young stars, their free agent acquisition of Paul Millsap will be looked upon to help with the inside game and fill the void of losing Smith.

These five players must step up their game if the Hawks want to stay competitive in a tough Eastern Conference, and break the bad habit of losing in the first or second rounds of the playoffs.

Daniel Chi is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielChi24,“Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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5. Shelvin Mack

Atlanta Hawks
Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Shelvin Mack, who appeared in 20 games for the Hawks after being shuffled around with two other teams, will be looked upon as one of their scorers off the bench.

Mack averaged only 5.2 points per game, but made his presence felt on the court with his stout defense and strong perimeter game, as he shot 40 percent from downtown.

Mack should be one of the first players off the bench, considering that the Hawks newly-drafted players won’t be with the team at the beginning of the year. If Mack can’t lead the second unit on the court, it will be a tough time for the Hawks’ starters to catch a breather or two.

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4. Louis Williams

Atlanta Hawks
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Getting off to a slow start in his first year with the Hawks due to nagging injuries, Louis Williams ended up having a decent year with 14.1 points per game.

Williams didn’t particularly shoot the ball well from the field, as he was shooting at just 42 percent from the field and 36 percent from long-distance. On the other hand, Williams is one of the few Hawks’ wing players that can create his own shot and has the ability to improvise.

For that reason alone, the Hawks will need Williams to not only shoot better from the field, but will need Williams to improve his scoring and help shoulder the load in their first year without Smith.

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3. Paul Millsap

Atlanta Hawks
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

During the 2012-13 regular season for the Utah Jazz, Millsap averaged 14.6 points per game and pulled down 7.1 rebounds per game.

Millsap was the next best option for the Hawks, as they failed to win any of the prized free agents such as Howard, Chris Paul and their very own Smith.

Although Millsap is not on the same level of those guys just listed, he is a strong player with a decent shot from mid-range that should help the Hawks score in the low-post game.

Millsap may not be a franchise player, but the Hawks will be expecting him to at least play like one. The inside game will be crucial for the Hawks, as they lack an All-Star wing player in a division that includes athletic wing players such as LeBron James and John Wall.

It will be crucial for the Hawks to control the inside, and Millsap will be a crucial part in protecting the rim along with attacking it on the end as well.

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2. Jeff Teague

Atlanta Hawks
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Last season alone, the Hawks witnessed their young point guard on the verge of becoming an All-Star. In 2013-14, they will need Teague to have a break out year and become a leader on the floor.

Teague averaged 14.6 points per game, dished out 7.2 assists per game along with 1.5 steals per game.

With the Hawks short of playmakers on the wing, it will be up to Teague to step up and lead his team on every single night.

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1. Al Horford

Atlanta Hawks
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

After only playing in 11 games during the 2011-12 season due to a shoulder injury that sidelined the All-Star center for three-to-four months, Hawks’ fans got to see Horford return to his normal self and have an outstanding year.

Horford averaged 17.4 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game along with 1.1 blocks per game.

As the 27-yeard-old enters his seventh NBA season, Horford will be their go-to guy for the first time in his career with Smith gone. If the Hawks want to even remotely have a chance against the top teams, they will need their big man to be their version of “Superman,” minus the “Dwightmare.”

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