Atlanta Hawks Host Detroit Pistons in Season Opener


It’s finally here, folks. The Atlanta Hawks begin their 2015-2016 campaign on Tuesday against the Detroit Piston in the friendly confines of Philips Arena.

The new season brings excitement and heightened expectations following a 60-win campaign last season and the Atlanta Hawks’ ascendance to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Many pundits do not expect the Atlanta Hawks to duplicate their success from a season ago, or even compete for a top seed in the conference. This line of thought stems from the loss of starting swingman DeMarre Carroll, who signed a lucrative contract with the Toronto Raptors this offseason. Even though many analysts project a regression from the Atlanta Hawks in the upcoming season, the team is not hindered by naysayers, and are prepared for another season in which they are overlooked by many.

-= Related: Atlanta Hawks Finalize Roster, Prepare for Regular Season =-

The Detroit Pistons enter the year trying to contend for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Head Coach Stan Van Gundy has an impressive core of young and talented players, highlighted by center Andre Drummond. Last season Drummond averaged 13.8 PPG and 13.5 boards per contest, while adding almost 2 blocks per game. Last season, the lack of size in the Atlanta Hawks’ front-court would have made this a difficult matchup for the team; but with the addition of players like Tiago Splitter and Walter Tavares, the Atlanta Hawks can now contend with bigger and more physical centers. 

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In the backcourt, Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder will contend with Reggie Jackson, who signed a multi-year deal to remain in Detroit this past offseason. Jackson is a dynamic guard, but has a penchant for being erratic on the offensive end at times. Kyle Korver will match up against former Georgia Bulldogs’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope averaged 12.7 PPG last season.

The Pistons added depth to their roster this offseason, acquiring PF Marcus Morris from Phoenix, signing Steve Blake to backup Reggie Jackson and Brandon Jennings once he returns from his Achilles injury. Perhaps the most intriguing addition to the Detroit Pistons lineup is rookie Stanley Johnson. Johnson was second among all NBA rookies in scoring this preseason, and figures as an integral part of SVG’s rotation.

For the Atlanta Hawks, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer gave us a glimpse of the 10-man rotation that he will likely employ early in the season. The starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford remains intact for the most part, save for the addition of Kent Bazemore at the starting small forward position. Bazemore played well enough this preseason to give Bud confidence in starting him, especially as Thabo Sefolosha continues to recover from injury.

Tiago Splitter is the most likley candidate to come off the bench first, spelling either Millsap or Horford. Dennis Schroder will spell Jeff Teague at the point guard position, as the third-year guard from Germany looks to continue the refinement of his game. Recently acquired Tim Hardaway, Jr. can play the 2 or the 3 depending on the lineup that Bud employs — and despite his struggles during the preseason, figures as one of the better scoring threats off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks. 

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Thabo Sefolosha continues to recover from a leg injury in New York in April and will probably see a minutes limit in the near future until he is at full strength. Though Mike Budenholzer could utilize Sefolosha as a starter at SF in the future, his defense coming off the bench may make more of a tangible impact. Mike Muscala saw more playing time at the end of last season and in the playoffs, and looks to receive more playing time because of his improvement.

We may also see a mix of Shelvin Mack, Justin Holiday and Mike Scott at some point during the game and even Walter Tavares if he dresses. The Atlanta Hawks have options this season because of their depth, and can mix and match depending on the strengths of their opponents.

Basketball is back, fans. The Atlanta Hawks look to replicate their success from last year; and this season is shaping up as an exciting campaign for our hometown team. The Atlanta Hawks face off against the Detroit Pistons at 8:00 PM, with Fox Sports Southeast handling the broadcast.

Next: Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

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