Defensive Player of the Year
Deciding this award might be a little tougher next offseason now that Demarre Carroll is no longer with the Hawks. The former undervalued small forward just got paid after contributing to the most memorable season in Atlanta basketball history. However, he did not get paid for his offense. While he is a capable scorer and has a nice three-point stroke, Carroll’s biggest attribute is his tremendous defense. He showcased it several times during the regular season against Lebron James. It was disappointing to see Carroll get injured in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. James was able to dominate a hobbled Carroll all series on their way to a sweep of the Hawks.
Carroll is long and quick and never takes a play off. The Junkyard Dog made a name for himself in Atlanta by constantly hustling and creating problems on defense. He has stated many times that defense is his number one priority and it is what he wants to be known for. After the 2013-14 season a few people started to take notice of his defense. When Atlanta became a top team, the whole NBA took notice of Carroll’s defense and hustle. It is hard to find many players like Carroll and the Raptors sure got a great piece in Demarre Carroll.
Most Improved Player
Dennis Schroder was by far and away the Hawks’ most improved player. The second year man out of Germany took the next step as an NBA basketball player this season. In his rookie year, Schroder struggled mightily when on the floor for the Hawks. He shot just 38% from the field and a dismal 24% from behind the arc. After coming into the NBA with high marks, it seemed like Schroder was going to be another failed Hawks first-round pick.
Last season Schroder found a whole new element to his game: a jump shot. Schroder worked countless hours on his shooting in the offseason and it paid off. Schroder shot 35% from behind the arc and seemed to gain confidence every time he stepped on the floor. When Jeff Teague was injured, the Hawks did not miss a beat. Schroder even played at the end of games in the playoffs instead of Teague at times. Now Schroder is an early pre-season Sixth Man of the Year candidate for next season. Even Dirk Nowitzki is wearing his clothes. Schroder has become a valauble member to this Hawks team and an up an coming star seemingly overnight.
Most Valuable Player
The Most Valuable Player award was by far the hardest to give out. So many Hawks played such an important role to this team, but the decision comes down to one thing. The only significant change to the last year’s roster compared to the prior season was getting back a healthy Al Horford. Horford went down with a torn pectoral muscle for the second time in his career in 2013. The Hawks sputterd the rest of the season, but still managed to snag the eighth seed. Horford returned for the beginning of the 2014 season and was back to being the rock down low. He is one of the most complete centers in the game and was the Hawks most consistent performer last year.
Horford is a terrific player and deserves this award, but if the Hawks team wants to take it to the next level, Jeff Teague is going to have to rise up and become this team most valuable player. He showed against the Cavaliers he is capable of carrying a team on his own when the stage is the biggest. Hopefully those performances will give him the confidence to be the guy this upcoming season.