Five Atlanta Hawks Make SI’s Top 100 Players


The Atlanta Hawks have been well represented on Sport’s Illustrated’s list of the top 100 players in the NBA. Five players have seen their name crack the rankings. Whether you’re a Hawks fans, or just a general NBA fan, the list is worth checking out. So far they have counted down from 100 to 11 with the final group being revealed later in the week.

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Tiago Splitter was the first Hawk to make the list. He was ranked as the 74th best player in the NBA. Splitter is most known for his defense, most notably his rim protection. The Hawks hope he can provide defensive stability to the second unit and also improve their rebounding this season.

"Don’t be fooled by his modest per-game numbers: Splitter is an effective contributor on both ends who should mesh well with Atlanta’s San Antonio-like pass-heavy offensive philosophy, and with its two All-Star big men: Al Horford and Paul Millsap."

Sharpshooter extraordinaire Kyle Korver finds himself ranked in 46th place. The three-point specialist shot 49.2 percent from deep last season and flirted with a .50/.50/.90 season. His three-point shooting helps the Hawks space the floor and makes help defense a nightmare game of “pick your poison” for opponents. In recent seasons he has also put to bed the notion that he is a subpar defender. His defensive real plus/minus was 1.34 last season, 11th best for shooting guards. Nothing special, but enough to show that Korver is just fine on the defensive end.

"The game of basketball warps around Korver. Wherever he goes, multiple defenders follow: His own man trailing closely, several others inching toward him out of instinct, and more tracking Korver’s movement with their eyes. So precise is his jumper that opposing coaches scheme around the very possibility of its use."

Next comes Jeff Teague at 41st best in the NBA. Teague has really come into his own over the last two seasons, leading to a bump from 91st in last year’s rankings to 41st this year. He’s a blur with the ball, an exceptional pick and roll player, a good defender and the engine that makes the Hawks offense go. Last season Teague averaged 15.9 points and 7 assists per game, leading the Hawks to a 60 win season and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. He has just turned 27 so he is hitting his prime as a basketball player. I’m interested to see if Teague takes another leap in performance in the next few seasons.

"In his stead is a smooth practitioner of the pick-and-roll who waits for his screen to be properly set and pauses briefly before exploding into action. That recalibration steadied the Hawks and brought Teague to All-Stardom last year, as well as a career-best campaign at the helm of a successful offense and top defense."

Paul Millsap lands at 32nd in the rankings. The Hawks brought Millsap to Atlanta before the 2013-2014 season and they’re glad they did. In two seasons with Atlanta, Millsap has scored 17.3 points and grabbed 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7 percent from three-point range. Millsap has turned himself into a deadly stretch-four, giving the Hawks spacing that few teams have. The Hawks chose to sign Millsap instead of DeMarre Carroll this offseason and based on these rankings it appears that they have made the right choice (Carroll checked in at 81st).

"The former second-round pick fits like a glove in Mike Budenholzer’s pass-heavy, spread-oriented offense, and his inside/outside versatility is the key that unlocks Atlanta’s pick-your-poison offense."

Al Horford is the top ranked Hawk at 21st in the league. Horford is coming off of an excellent season in which he asserted himself as the Hawks defensive anchor while averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds on 53.8 percent shooting. His versatility and solid all-around play is what makes him so special.

"“To call him a ‘jack of all trades’ undersells the point. Horford is so balanced as a player he’s virtually without weakness—an amazing resource for the purposes of team building.”"

With 10 players left to reveal it is unlikely that the Hawks will land another player on the rankings. Unless there is some last minute trade that sends LeBron James to Atlanta I think it’s safe to say that Al Horford will be the final Hawk to be listed. Having five players selected, one that isn’t a starter, shows the impressive depth Atlanta will showcase this season.

Next: Dikembe Mutombo to Have his Number Retired

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