2014-15 Atlanta Hawks Season Preview: Forwards


Jan 6, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap (4) controls the ball against Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson (7) in front of Hawks small forward DeMarre Carroll (5) during the third quarter of a game at Barclays Center. The Nets defeated the Hawks 91-86. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

During our 2014-15 season previews, we will be previewing the starters, positions, bench, and more to get you prepared for the season. Next up: Forwards.

If you can shoot and move the ball, it is likely that you can be successful as a forward in Mike Budenholzer’s system. The opportunities are there, and DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap took advantage of those last season. Millsap made his first All-Star team, and Carroll scored double-digit points per game and was a good shooter from the outside.

Let’s take a look at this group of forwards and the potential they have for this upcoming season:

The Players

The Atlanta Hawks went bargain hunting last season, and did a great job in the market. They got an all-star for two years and $19 million, as well as a double-digit scoring small forward who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league for two years and $5 million. They will likely have to open the wallet if they want to keep these guys moving forward, but they are steals right now.

The Hawks also have Mike Scott, who entering his third season has a lot to prove. He is still viewed as a tweener — not excelling as a power forward defensively, and not consistent as a small forward offensively. He was a nice spark when coming in and spacing the floor, but his defensive laps made it tough to keep him on the floor for long periods of time. When the Hawks selected Adreian Payne 15th overall in the draft, many viewed that as bad news for Scott. He was a restricted free agent, but Atlanta brought him back on a three-year deal.

The power forward spot will have three guys battling for time, and defense may be the key to earning minutes, but the small forward spot could see some unique combinations. DeMarre Carroll should start, but it is a mystery beyond that. The Hawks have Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore, who are listed as guards, that will see some time backing up Carroll.

The Rotation

DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap will start, but there will be a battle behind those guys for playing time. Adreian Payne will no doubt be a power forward, but Mike Scott, Kent Bazemore, and Thabo Sefolosha can play multiple positions.

Here is our projected rotations for the forwards on the roster:

SF: DeMarre Carroll, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore, Mike Scott
PF: Paul Millsap, Adreian Payne, Mike Scott, Elton Brand

The Stats

Here are the per game side by side stats for the forwards on the roster:

Paul Millsap:
PTS: 17.9/REB: 8.5/AST: 3.1/FG: 46%/3P: 35%/BLK: 1.1/STL: 1.7

DeMarre Carroll:
PTS: 11.1/REB: 5.5/AST: 1.8/FG: 47/3P: 36%/BLK: 0.3/STL: 1.5

Mike Scott:
PTS: 9.6/REB: 3.6/AST: 0.9/FG: 47%/3P: 31%/BLK: 0.1/STL: 0.4

Adreian Payne (Michigan State):
PTS: 16.4/REB: 7.3/AST: 1.3/FG: 50%/3P: 42%/BLK: 0.9/STL: 0.5

**To see Bazemore and Sefolosha’s stats, check out our guard preview here.

The Predictions

These forwards will make a big impact, but outside shooting and defense will be the key to success this season.

Let’s go one by one with predictions:


What more can you say about this guy? He was an all-star last season, and without his talents and effort, the Hawks would have been outside of the playoffs looking in.  He brought in his lunch pail and got to work every game, while also showing some nice defensive efforts for his size. This season I expect him to be even better. With Al Horford coming back and taking some pressure off of him, Millsap will simply have to show up and continue his good play. Look for him to hit more outside shots and compliment Horford well.

His contract is expiring though, so he could be dangled in the trade market if things don’t go well.


During last year’s media day, DeMarre Carroll and I had a nice chat about his role. He was adamant about starting, and kept mentioning that he had surprised for everyone. He was right, as he was a great offensive fit with his outside shooting and toughness. His defense was phenomenal, as he constantly made it tough for the league’s best players on the wing.

As he gets more comfortable with this system and playing heavy minutes, he will only get better. He will have two guys backing him up (he pretty much had no one last season) which means his minutes could be cut. Expect another solid season from the Junkyard Dog.


Mike Scott took a giant leap forward in his second season last year, and became a key member of the rotation. He was also a nice spark during the playoffs, and showed the Hawks enough to bring him back on a three-year deal. He is as good as a mannequin on defense, and will have to improve on that if he wants to be the full time backup behind Paul Millsap.

If Scott can shoot a little more consistent from beyond the arc, and play better defensively, he could get more time. With the Hawks seemingly being all in on Adreian Payne, he will likely see a reduced role as the third power forward on the roster.


With the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Adreian Payne out of Michigan State. He is a 6’10 stretch-four that is a prefect fit for this system. He showed some flash of athleticism and motor during the Summer League, but struggled with shooting from the outside. He did get better as the games went on, and that was likely due to him calming down and getting more comfortable. The key for Payne will be to not get caught up in the speed of the NBA and not trying too hard. If he can do that, then he should be the first forward off the bench when Millsap sits. They will give him time to prove himself early, and with Mike Scott lurking, he could be given the Dennis Schröder treatment if he plays poorly.

The Conclusion

The Hawks have now drafted and signed forwards that fit Mike Budenholzer’s system. With another year in the system and another year of experience, this group has the chance to take them over the top. Outside shooting will be the main key, as floor spacing is something that makes the system thrive. It will be fun to see Paul Millsap in a contract year.

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