The Hawks struggled in the paint last year. They ranked 27th in rebounding and lacked the presence of a true rim protector. During the regular season, the Hawks were able to hide these flaws, but during the playoffs they were exposed. They made Brook Lopez look like a superstar and Tristan Thompson look like Dennis Rodman. Because of this, Hawks management felt like adding size was priority number one, and now this weakness will be a huge strength in the 2015-2016 season.
The revamping of the Hawks frontcourt got off to a great start when Pero Antic announced he would sign with Fenerbahçe of the Turkish basketball. Antic was an absolute mess for the Hawks and never should have had to see the floor as much as he did, but the fact was the Hawks did not have many quality big bodies behind Al Horford. The first move the Hawks made this offseason was a trade to acquire Tiago Splitter from the San Antonio Spurs. Splitter’s numbers are far from eye popping. He averaged just 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in just under 20 minutes last season for the Spurs. However, he is the rim protector the Hawks have needed and does a lot of things that do not show up on the stat sheet, which is shown by his nice player efficiency rating of 18.98. Splitter is also coming over from the Spurs organization, so he will be very familiar with Coach Budenholzer’s system. He will most likely be coming off the bench for Atlanta, but expect Splitter to play a much bigger role for the Hawks next season than he did in San Antonio and possibly be one of the Hawks’ best players. His presence will be felt, and I think the move to acquire him for virtually nothing was genius. The Hawks got a steal in Tiago Splitter.
However, Splitter is not the only move the Hawks made to beef up the frontcourt. The Hawks announced that they signed Edy Tavares, the 7 foot 3 inch big man who has been playing in the Liga ACB for Gran Canaria. After being drafted in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, his future with the Hawks did not look too good when it was rumored he would not be playing summer ball for the Hawks and could be working on a multi-year deal with another European team. However, the Hawks made it priority to sign him, and now he will be participating in the Hawks’ upcoming summer league games. He is coming off a season in which he averaged around 8 points and 8 rebounds in just 22 minutes for Gran Canaria. He probably will not have a huge impact in the upcoming season, but he very well could be the rim protector of the future, and I would not count anything out. He is very raw, but talented, and working with a veteran like Tiago Splitter could do wonders for Taveres. The Hawks have one of the best player development groups in the NBA, and Tavares has the potential to be something special.
Another frontcourt player the Hawks have really been working with is Mike Muscala. Muscala was a second round pick out of Bucknell in 2013, but has really shown signs of improvement. Hawks fans saw him receive minutes in the playoffs, and he did well while on the court, even making a game tying three in the last seconds of Game 3 versus the Wizards. He is still young and far from a proven commodity, but I firmly believe Muscala will take the next step this year. He has developed a very nice shot from behind the arc and is a solid rebounder. He is not a rim protector like Splitter or Tavares, but he will still be a valuable piece to the Hawks frontcourt this season, and he is another guy that will benefit from Tiago Splitter’s presence.
The addition of Tiago Splitter alone solidifies the Hawks’ frontcourt, but Mike Muscala is no fluke and will be a solid piece this upcoming season.Tavares is a question mark, but anything he provides this season is just icing on the cake. What was a glaring weakness will now be a strength heading into next season. The Hawks may not have another 60 win season, but these improvements in the frontcourt will be evident when it matters in the playoffs.