Over the coming weeks, we at FanRag Sports will do a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2017-18 season. Let’s start today with the Atlanta Hawks.
In the 2016-17 NBA season, the Atlanta Hawks had one player finish among the top 50 in per-game fantasy basketball value in nine-category leagues (Paul Millsap). They had another in the top 100 (Dwight Howard) and five others among the top 150. After losing Millsap, Howard and Tim Hardaway Jr. during this offseason, they have all the makings of a fantasy wasteland in 2017-18.
With Millsap and Howard gone, the Hawks’ frontcourt is a complete question mark. Veterans Ersan Ilyasova and Dewayne Dedmon figure to get the first shot at locking up starting roles during training camp, but as the year progresses and the Hawks shift further into tank mode, rookie John Collins could get more minutes. Miles Plumlee and Mike Muscala loom to further complicate matters.
In the backcourt, the only certainty is Dennis Schroder starting at point guard. Kent Bazemore figures to occupy one of the two starting wing spots, while second-year swingmen Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry battle for the other. Given the Hawks’ dearth of proven backcourt players — Marco Belinelli is the only other threat to steal significant playing time at the two or the three — all three figure to play upward of 25-30 minutes per night. Whether any of them can become trustworthy fantasy factors remains an open question, however.
Which Hawks players should fantasy owners target with early-, mid- and late-round picks, and who should be left on the waiver wire? Let’s take a look.
Dennis Schroder, PG: When Dennis Schroder is your team’s most enticing fantasy prospect, you’re in for a bleak season.
In Schroder’s first season as the full-time starter in 2016-17, he put up career-high averages of 17.9 points on 45.1 percent shooting, 6.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 3-pointers in 31.5 minutes per game, but he finished as the 108th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. His 3.3 turnovers and only 0.9 steals sent his fantasy stock into the late-round toilet. He doesn’t produce enough in the categories you need from a PG1 (assists, steals and 3-pointers).
With the rest of the Hawks in ruins, someone has to put up hefty stats on this team, and Schroder is the best bet. However, what he gains in points, assists and rebounds, he may lose in field goal percentage. The downgrade from Millsap and Howard to Ilyasova and Dedmon means opponents can focus more of their defensive attention on stopping him, which could send his field goal percentage back into the low 40s rather than the mid-40s.
Given the depth at point guard, owners shouldn’t have to reach on Schroder as their No. 1 player at the position. Treat him as a mid-range PG2 and grab him with a sixth- or seventh-round pick, depending on the size of your league.
Kent Bazemore, SG: After signing a four-year, $70 million contract last summer, Bazemore was a resounding disappointment in 2016-17. He averaged only 11 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 triples and 1.2 steals in 26.9 minutes, finishing as the 147th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. However, the absences of Millsap, Howard and Hardaway Jr. leave a mammoth offensive opportunity for Bazemore to seize. If he can emerge as the Robin to Schroder’s Batman, he has top-100 upside at a late-round price.
Taurean Prince, SF: Prince finished well outside the standard league radar as a rookie in 2016-17, but the flashes of quality he showed toward the end of the year raised intrigue about his longer-term outlook. During his final 17 games, the Baylor product averaged 10.8 points on 42 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.1 triples and 0.9 blocks in 28.7 minutes, giving him top-150 value over that span. With Hardaway Jr. gone, Prince appears to be the early favorite to slide into the starting lineup, which should make him a sneaky source of late-round value.
DeAndre’ Bembry, PF: Bembry was the other of the Hawks’ two first-round picks last year, but he registered even less of an impact than Prince as a rookie. He broke out during his four outings at the Las Vegas Summer League in July, though, putting up 17 points on 56.5 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.8 steals in 26.3 minutes. He enters the year with less upside than Bazemore and Prince unless he can beat one of those two for a starting gig, but with the Hawks presumably embracing a youth movement, his fantasy value could progressively escalate as the season wears on.
Ersan Ilyasova, PF: Ilyasova won’t be a sexy late-round pick, but owners in need of a 3-point specialist could do far worse. The 30-year-old averaged a career-high 1.7 triples per game last season with 13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 26.1 minutes during stops in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Given the Hawks’ lack of other reliable frontcourt options, Ilyasova figures to slot in as the starting four and play upward of 30 minutes per night, which should allow him to flirt with top-100 value.
Dewayne Dedmon, C: If you’re in need of points, rebounds, field goal percentage or blocks in the final few rounds of your draft, Dedmon will be worth a look. Anyone expecting a Clint Capela-esque breakout from the 27-year-old should pump the brakes, though. The Hawks have Miles Plumlee, Mike Muscala and rookie John Collins lingering as threats to Dedmon’s playing time. Even on a per-36-minute basis, Dedmon averaged only 10.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks with the San Antonio Spurs last year. He’ll be a valuable rotation big for a fantasy roster, but no one should go into the season with him as a starting center.
Nicolas Brussino, SG
Tyler Dorsey, SG
Marco Belinelli, SG
Malcom Delaney, SG
John Collins, PF
Miles Plumlee, PF
Tyler Cavanaugh, PF
Mike Muscala, C
Sleeper: Kent Bazemore
Bust: Dewayne Dedmon
All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues. All average draft position info via FantasyPros.
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