Atlanta Hawks Boast Best Bench Players in Eastern Conference

By Bradley Sturgeon
Getty Images
Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks have made small additions to their roster this offseason. The signings of shooting-guard Kent Bazemore and established veteran Thabo Sefolosha will bolster an already solid depth chart that finished in the top 10 in the league this past year in points per game.

Shelvin Mack will fill the primary backup role behind starter Jeff Teague. Mack provides consistent play in distributing to perimeter shooters and can drop down the three-ball as well. Mack’s threat of driving through the lane or shooting away from behind the arc makes him a complementary backup to Teague’s similar style of play. Expect to see Dennis Schroder get ample minutes here also, but Schroder has a lot of maturing left to do before he can overtake Mack in the rotation.

Bazemore is not a signing that is going to get Atlanta fans excited, but it should be. The depth behind sharpshooter Kyle Korver in 2013-14 was sorely vapid. Bazemore is a very promising young talent who ended the last two months of the season averaging over 20 PPG for the Los Angeles Lakers. I think this was a great move for the Hawks. Coach Mike Budenholzer has established a fantastic system in Atlanta where Bazemore will flourish. The culture of sharing the ball and team first mentality will lend well in his development.

Sefolosha will be manning the backup for the third spot behind DeMarre Carroll on the roster. Sefolosha is the most underrated pickup of the offseason. His addition propels the Hawks even further up the chart as contenders in the East, for Atlanta’s biggest stickler this past season was a lack of defensive stops. Sefolosha is a great shooter from behind the arc which Budenholzer loves, but his defensive capabilities make him a versatile option for the rotations necessary to support the stellar offensive production already established.

Adrian Payne‘s first-round pick by Atlanta was praised by pundits across the media. He will complement the skill set of starter Paul Millsap very well, for he can be a stretch four threat as well. He may not have the ball handling fluidity that Millsap possesses, but he has the capability and upside to develop into that type of player under the Budenholzer system.

Pero Antic had some bright moments this past season for the Hawks, but he also had some extreme lows. He basically ended Atlanta’s playoff run in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers by playing atrociously. He was a rookie in the league even though he’s over 30 years old, so he gets some slack. Hopefully he will be more comfortable and settled in this upcoming year. He and Mike Muscala will split time behind All-star center Al Horford. Muscala has shown much improvement in the 2014 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. I expect him to overtake Antic as the primary backup by mid-season.

The Hawks have built up a solid team that will be a contender for the Eastern Conference championship in 2015. Their moves this offseason may not have been for big name players like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but they are establishing a system under coach Budenholzer that is very similar to the San Antonio Spurs where he worked for many years. The Miami Heat‘s big three proved that you cannot win an NBA Championship without a sufficient depth chart. Atlanta is one of the most well-rounded teams in the league, so expect them to be very competitive in the fall.

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