The Atlanta Hawks were eliminated from Summer League play in Las Vegas following a 78-71 loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday, a game that came down to the wire.
Atlanta finished with a record of 2-4, going 2-1 in tournament play.
While the Hawks’ run in Vegas may be over, there are many things to takeaway from their performance.
One of the big positives for Atlanta moving forward is the play of Mike Muscala.
Jawz as they call him, was excellent in the Summer League posting averages of 13.8 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. He was easily the Hawks’ most consistent big man, scoring double figures in each of Atlanta’s games. Muscala also displayed a surprising ability to score the ball from deep, connecting on 3 shots from downtown. The big man didn’t find consistent minutes in his first season but, with the probable departures of Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon coupled with the stellar performance put on by Jawz in Vegas, Muscala should be able to find his way into the rotation. Muscala looks like a nice rotational big and Hawks fans should expect to see some good production out of the man from Bucknell.
Another solid performer for the Hawks in Summer League was Dennis Schröder.
Schröder showed great pace and balance in Vegas, putting up some big performances such as his 30-point scoring output against the D-League Select squad. However, as great as he was, he struggled in the turnover department. Schröder was seen at times trying to do too much, too quickly resulting in turnovers. The good news is that turnover-prone issues can be fixed through continued time on the floor. While Schröder did struggle with turnovers his passing skill was definitely on display. He looked fluid in some of the more basic passes, and, as he continues to get more seasoned, should be able to master more advanced passes. Although the passing skill was there, the shooting skill for Schröder was still not present. Schröder definitely struggled to shoot the ball which is a concern moving forward. Many of the misses Schröder had were not even close and although he showed a much improved 3-point stroke, there is still a lot of work to done in the shooting department. Dennis Schröder put on 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and along with his continued development, he should be ready for a rotational role with Atlanta. Schröder was impressive at times but there is still much work to do if he wants to be a starter in this league.
While Muscala and Schröder look primed for big roles within the Hawks offense next season, one player with less certainty is Adreian Payne.
Although I’m sure everyone can agree that Payne will eventually turn into a rotational big, we just didn’t see enough from him at Vegas to justify good minutes this season. That may change after training camp finishes but as of right now, it’s tough to see Payne getting solid minutes considering how jammed Atlanta’s frontcourt is. It was one bad thing or another for Payne in the Summer League. Either he was having a rough day shooting the ball, a tough time controlling the ball, foul trouble, or a combination of the 3. Payne talked with NBA.com’s Lang Whitaker on his adjustment to the NBA noting some of these struggles. The good thing is that Payne recognizes these struggles and has had enough basketball experience that he should be able to overcome them. He may not be a significant player in the rotation yet, but he is well on his way towards it.
Although Walter Tavares didn’t start in the Summer League, he put on a beautiful performance.
The big man was more polished than initially thought. He was very successful on the defensive end which was assumed but what surprised most was his offensive arsenal. Tavares may not have scored double figures in the Summer League but he showed great composure as he stayed within his game at Vegas. This is promising moving forward as it is a sign he is very coach-able. Once he gets passed the language barrier, he should be able to provide solid minutes for an NBA team. While his work in the Summer League was good, fans should expect him to play overseas this year as there is a log-jam in the frontcourt. He can get more minutes playing overseas which will better his development and make him a more complete player.
What about the other Hawks in the Summer League?
Lamar Patterson was a name to watch for but he struggled mightily in Vegas, eventually losing his starting spot to Stephen Holt. Holt, who won Patterson’s starting role played well enough to at least earn him a try for a roster spot. Since the Hawks roster is close to being full, I expect him to eventually be back in Atlanta but maybe on a 10 day contract later in the year. John Jenkins was another player to look out for but he struggled as well. Jenkins may be excusable though as he was just cleared from surgery before the start of Summer League to start playing. It will be interesting as to how Atlanta handles Jenkins moving forward though as his contract is guaranteed. He hasn’t been able to become a rotation player for the Hawks and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on his way out after this season if the struggles continue.
The key names for Atlanta did their job very well in the Summer League and seemed to develop good chemistry towards the end of their stint in the Nevada desert. While some struggled, there were enough big time performances to create a nice buzz for Atlanta moving forward. The Summer League can be a great indicator of things to come, however, it should be taken with a grain of salt as there are numerous factors that play into not only the NBA’s arduous season, but a player’s career. For now, let’s get excited about our young Hawks!