The Atlanta Hawks allowed long-time forward Josh Smith to walk this offseason in free agency. Most NBA teams would certainly feel the negative effects of losing a player of Smith’s caliber for the respect he demands on both ends of the floor. However, the Hawks went out in free agency themselves and made sure the blow would be glancing at best.
Atlanta made one of the best bargain signings of the summer when they landed veteran power forward Paul Millsap for two years, $19 million, an absolute steal of a contract for a player of Millsap’s caliber. Millsap may not have the defensive presence of Smith, but his offensive ability and how he pairs with Al Horford in the Hawks frontcourt seemed like a great way to start building in the post-Smith era.
On Monday night as the Hawks faced off with the San Antonio Spurs, the Hawks showed how good that they can be when they are relying heavily on that frontcourt of Millsap in Horford. Though the Hawks came up just short in the 102-100 loss thanks to a last-second shot from Tim Duncan, how well the Hawks played against an upper-tier team like San Antonio says a lot.
In the matchup, Horford and Millsap combined for 36 shots with Millsap taking 20 and Horford putting up 16. Sure, Millsap converted on only six of his attempts and Horford hit on nine of his, but this offense is simply more potent when those two guys are getting their touches. Not only can both men move well and put the ball in the cylinder, but they also demand attention from opposing defenses which opens up the floor for the rest of the offense.
It is just one game, but you have to think that Mike Budenholzer saw the recipe for future success on Monday night. He’s trying to institute a Spurs-like system in Atlanta and that has worked solidly at times, but this team is going to be successful because of their frontcourt.