The Atlanta Hawks opened up their play in the 2013 NBA preseason on Monday night, facing off with the back-to-back champion Miami Heat. As a whole, the Hawks struggled to get shots to fall, particularly from long-range where they shot just 4-23 from in the contest, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a 92-87 loss.
Along with their shooting woes, it was clear in their preseason opener that many of the Hawks’ new pieces are still trying to get on the same page. There’s definitely the start of some fantastic chemistry, but it still hasn’t come to full fruition on the court yet. However, new Hawks power forward Paul Millsap looked right at home with his new team in his first live action with Atlanta.
Millsap saw the floor for 24 minutes last night and was productive. He notched 12 points, three rebounds and one assist while shooting a solid 6-10 from the floor. Beyond his production alone, though, Millsap seemed the most comfortable of the newcomers to Atlanta. As he has done for most of his career, Millsap was incredibly active off-the-ball, which allowed him to take advantage of the interior passing ability of Al Horford and of point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder.
New Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer has preached “movement, movement, movement” over the summer and in training camp with his new team and Millsap certainly took that to heart judging by his performance on Tuesday night.
For a big man, Millsap is quick with his cuts and movement away from the ball, which is one of the reasons he is one of the best additions around the league this off-season. Last season with the Utah Jazz, 13.6 percent of Millsap’s possessions came off of cuts, resulting in 1.09 points per possession and 54.1 percent shooting, per Synergy Sports. From the looks of it, that percentage will easily be at the same level in Atlanta this season, if not higher. With the players around him on the Hawks roster, he should also have more success in that regard, as well.
Another nuance the Hawks offense that should help Millsap in regards to his off-ball movement is their plan to rely on the team’s three-point shooting ability. Having shooters around the arc will space the floor well for Atlanta, giving Millsap more room to work as he cuts off-the-ball and also possibly giving the defense less of an opportunity to help off on Millsap when he gets the ball off of a cut.
Though Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala may be the most flashy free-agent signings of the summer of 2013, Millsap is one of the most beneficial signings for his new team. Millsap adds an element to the Hawks offense that they succeeded with when Josh Smith was around, but always wanted to see more of with Smith. It’s just one preseason game, but it looks like the Hawks will get their wish of seeing more of it with Millsap, which will give Atlanta a major boost this season.
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