The Atlanta Hawks came into the season with a new revamped starting lineup, replacing two starters. Josh Smith was replaced with Paul Millsap and the Hawks filled their small forward needs with the addition of DeMarre Carroll.
The starters will be given credit for the 25-23 record, but don’t overlook the bench’s contributions. As starters got injured, the “next man up” mentality has seen the Hawks look as if the injuries never happened. While some players have emerged as legitimate forces off the bench, some have seen their roles diminished due to poor play. Here are grades for every single Hawks bench player.
The 31-year old Macedonian rookie has averaged 5.6 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from downtown. Antic started the season playing extended minutes off the bench due to center Gustavo Ayon’s injury. Antic wasn’t great and when Ayon returned, he saw his minutes diminish significantly.
Once Al Horford went down, Antic stepped up into the starting role and never looked back. Since the beginning of January, Antic has shot 42 percent from three averaging 11.2 PPG. Antic got infected with the injury bug on January 22, but is expected to participate in the NBA Rising Stars challenge.
Ayon is another Hawks player who has battled his fair share of injuries. After starting the season late, Ayon struggled to find his groove.
After the Horford injury, Ayon saw his minutes increase, but not to the degree other Hawks big men saw. Once Antic went down in late January, Ayon was granted more minutes. Ayon has averaged 24.8 minutes since the Antic injury, but has only shot 17 percent from the field. During that stretch, he has averaged 6.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG. Not overly impressive for a guy who’s playing 24 MPG. Ayon is very limited in his offensive game, making it difficult to create spacing on the floor.
Lou came back from his ACL injury that sidelined him for most of the 2012-2013 season in mid-November. Since his return, Williams hasn’t been the “Lou” fans expected. He has failed to average double digits scoring and has averaged 23 MPG, the most of any Hawks bench player. Almost half of his shots have come from three where he shoots a decent 37 percent, but he’s been non-existent in dribble penetration and his failure to be two dimensional has forced him into tough shots. This grade might seem harsh, but considering what Williams is capable of, I think it’s fair.
Scott has been a spark plug off the bench. He gets quality minutes and makes the most out of them on the offensive end. Scott has averaged 9.3 PPG this season and 13 PPG since the Horford injury. He is starting to be known as a three point shooter even though he shoots a modest 35 percent from long range. Scott still needs to put in more work on his defensive game but his development is encouraging.
The former first overall pick has exerted his veteran presence on this young team. Brand has been a staple in the Hawks’ frontcourt that has thrived amid various injuries. Brand has averaged 5.2 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 15 minutes while shooting 52 percent from the field.
The most impressive stat for Mack is that he averages only one turnover a game in nearly 20 minutes. He came into the season as the third string point guard but he quickly took over the backup role when Dennis Schroeder struggled. Mack is a really consistent role player who exhibits flashes of brilliance. 7.6 PPG and 3.6 APG aren’t too shabby for a bench player who wasn’t expected to play much this season.
Some scouts deemed him the next Rajon Rondo, and he displayed his abilities with an impressive preseason.
However, the good play did not carry into the regular season. Schroeder turned the ball over too much and was sent down for a short D-League stint. He came back from the D-League but didn’t find himself in the rotation as Mack had taken over his minutes. In limited minutes, Schroeder has had almost as many turnovers as assists. Not known as a scoring point guard, he will have to limit those turnovers to find more minutes.
Martin is back on a 10-day contract after being cut by the Hawks in early January. He spent two 10-day contracts with the Chicago Bulls, but was not offered a third 10-day contract. After receiving minutes early in the season, he didn’t produce to the level the Hawks had hoped and found himself cut. In his only game back since his return, he scored eight points in 12 minutes, all of which came in a 4th quarter rally by the Hawks. His efforts show promise that he’s back and ready to contribute.
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