Hawks have major flexibility to improve promising roster

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks transitioned to a new coach and a heavily altered roster without pause, and they are in position to make big improvements this summer.

The Atlanta Hawks put up a fight against the Indiana Pacers -- pushing them to a seven-game series in the first round of the NBA Playoffs -- but they couldn't land the finishing blow. Rookie head coach Mike Budenholzer guided the Hawks to 38 wins even with big man Al Horford missing 53 games, and they should improve on that successful season.

The frontcourt pairing of Paul Millsap and Horford did not play together often due to injury, but that shouldn't discourage Atlanta. The Hawks found success in different areas of their roster. Point guard Jeff Teague had a tremendous playoff run after putting up a career-high scoring average in the regular season. Horford's injury allowed the Hawks more time to develop big man Pero Antic, who tried his hand at spacing the floor out to the three-point line. Kyle Korver shot a blistering 47 percent from beyond the arc, continuing his career as one of the best three-point shooting nomads in the NBA. Millsap's all-around game translated away from the Utah Jazz and he was able to carry the frontcourt load without Horford.

Now, Atlanta will have another chance to add a contributor with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Their salary situation is also favorable. Horford's return and a strong offseason should make for a very competitive Atlanta squad.

The assets

Picks: No. 15, No. 43
Free agents: Elton Brand (UFA), Shelvin Mack (RFA), Mike Scott (RFA), Gustavo Ayon (RFA), Cartier Martin (UFA)
Cap space: $16.2 million

Depth chart

PG: Jeff Teague, Shelvin Mack (RFA), Dennis Schroder
SG: Kyle Korver, Louis Williams
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Cartier Martin, John Jenkins
PF: Paul Millsap, Mike Scott (RFA), Elton Brand (UFA)
C: Al Horford, Pero Antic (non-guaranteed), Gustavo Ayon (RFA), Mike Muscala (non-guaranteed)

Team needs

Atlanta's draft pick will leave the team with a handful of favorable options to address a number of needs. That could mean filling out a hole in the frontcourt rotation behind Millsap and Horford, or it could mean adding another wing option.

Atlanta has a good amount of depth at point guard and also has players in position to fill out its center depth. Power forward, small forward and shooting guard are all positions that could be improved this summer. The Hawks are thin on the wings, in particular.

Targets

Expect the team to look at players like Zach LaVine, James Young, Nik Stauskas, Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Kyle Anderson. The draft is expected to have players who can contribute immediately or have promising potential, so Atlanta should get a quality player in the middle of the first round. It'll help if they can shoot and are wing players.

How the Hawks use the 15th overall pick will likely come down to which players are still available once 14 other teams make their selections. Options should be abundant, though, giving the Hawks an opportunity to make a pick they are confident in. Their second-round pick seems destined to be used on a small forward project prospect, as their point guard and center depth is crowded.

Add a productive pick at No. 15, Horford's return from injury and the spending power they'll have this summer together, and the outlook for the rebuilt Atlanta Hawks looks like it's heading in the right direction.

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