One thing the Hawks have is an incredible knack for is ensuring that nearly every player that dons their uniform improves during their tenure in Atlanta. Ever since Mike Budenholzer took the reigns as head coach, his system as well as the Hawks player development staff has gone a long way in maximizing the potential of our players. Just this offseason Atlanta saw a former unknown in Demarre Carroll earn a huge payday on the open market that he never could have dreamed of earning just a couple seasons ago. With a glaring hole on the wing and a handful of new faces headed to Atlanta, a lot of guys are going to have to step up to ensure rotation minutes this upcoming season. Let’s take a look at some guys who may have the potential to earn the team’s most improved player award this season, and stick around for my final prediction.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Many are not huge fans of the Hardaway deal, but I still think he is more talented than any player that was left on the board. It was just a year ago that many were claiming Hardaway Jr. the steal of the draft after being selected 24th overall by the Knicks. His reputation is tarnished a bit after being a member of an abysmal New York Knicks team last season. Opposing defenses got to put their best defenders on him as he was one of the top options offensively for the Knicks. He will now get to play a lot of minutes against second units while operating in an offense structured to fit his skill set with much more talented players. Hardaway Jr. is a prime candidate for the team’s most improved player.
Don’t be surprised if Justin Holiday gets some starts at the wing this season. The brother of Jrue Holiday got lost in the rotation of one of the deepest teams in NBA history. However, he could be the next “Demarre Carroll-esque” under-the-radar signing who shines in Coach Bud’s system. Holiday is in the best situtation imaginable to prove himself in the NBA. It’s up to him to take advantage of the team’s lack of depth at the wing and earn as many minutes as possible.
The only returning player on this list is also the youngest at just 22 years of age. That did not stop Schroder from having a breakout season, and is the most proven NBA talent on this list as well. The sky is the limit for Schroder, and I wrote a column on why I think he can be a dark horse for Sixth Man of the Year award. With Kyle Korver coming off surgery, there’s a good chance Coach Bud implements a “Pop” strategy of sitting him on given nights for the playoffs. I see Schroder earning more minutes at the point, and Coach Bud will also let him play on the court with Teague, too. He has sky-high potential, and this could be the year he breaks out.
My Prediction: I think every player featured will see big time improvements this season, but it really comes down to Hardaway Jr. and Dennis Schroder. I am putting my money on Schroder because I think he’s the only one with the potential to break out at any given time and become a star. I love Jeff Teague, but if DS-17 can polish his game, there could be a changing of the guard in Atlanta sooner rather than later. Hopefully the third year can be the charm for the young German point guard.