Timberwolves Season Series Preview: Atlanta Hawks

Nov 9, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) attempts a dunk over Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Hawks 117-107. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 9, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) attempts a dunk over Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Hawks 117-107. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Welcome to Part 21 in our series previewing each of the Timberwolves’ opponents and the respective upcoming season series.

Tale of the tape: The Wolves managed to win both games against the Hawks last season. The first of the two wins actually snapped a seven-game win streak by the Hawks. However, both victories were achieved in very close battles, and nothing less should be expected this season.

What’s New?

Key Losses

Al Horford

One of the best centers in the East decided to leave for the Celtics, which just so happen to be the team, that he, along with the Hawks, managed to beat in last spring’s playoffs.

A big reason why Horford is so valuable is his ability to stretch the floor. Alongside Paul Millsap, who is also a good outside shooter for a power forward, they formed a very versatile front court. But with Horford gone and replaced by Dwight Howard, the Hawks won’t have the luxury of a perfectly executed floor spacing.

However, they will be getting a significant boost in rebounding and a powerful force in the paint. Which, if used skillfully, can become more of an advantage than a disadvantage, compared to what Horford was capable of.

Jeff Teague

I didn’t really understand Atlanta’s reasoning behind this and I’m not sure I do now. Surely, I get that they want to give more time for Dennis Schrӧder, but he’s just too inconsistent to be the main point guard in a playoff team. He’s faster and younger than Teague, but other than that Jeff is a better player in most departments.

Acquiring Jarrett Jack as a backup point guard was a smart move though and it may just minimize the void in this position to a minimum.

Key Additions

Dwight Howard

He may no longer be the same dominant center who led Orlando to the finals in 2009. However, Howard is still probably top-five for the best rebounders in the league, and has averaged a double-double in every single season he spent in the NBA. And although he still struggles with free-throw shooting, his field goal percentage is incredibly good, as last year Howard made 62 percent of his shots.

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That kind of efficiency from the paint alongside Dwight’s physical strength may turn out to be very effective for Atlanta — especially since Hawks like playing on the perimeter and having such a strong center in the paint can actually create additional options for the team. And that doesn’t even consider the defensive impact that Dwight will bring to Atlanta.

Jarrett Jack

Jack is one of my favorite veteran point guards in the league. He has decent mid-range and long-range shots and has an above-average court vision for a point guard.

Jack is reliable and will gladly take responsibility for the team as a whole in crucial moments. Jack often does, however, lose his man on defense, particularly when fighting around screens. As is the case with many veterans, he’s not nearly as fast as the majority of young athletic point guards in the league.

Overall, however, Jarrett’s pick-up should turn out to be a very solid choice by the Hawks.

What’s The Same?

Paul Millsap’s dominance. One of the league’s premier power forwards should once again be Hawks’ best player. There have been rumors of him leaving for other teams, but Hawks made sure he stayed.

In Mike Budenholzer’s schemes, a lot depends on Millsap. It wasn’t just coincidence that he was the team’s go-to guy in last year’s playoffs whenever Hawks hit a rough skid on offense; Millsap and Teague basically dragged Atlanta into the second round.

But in a tougher Eastern Conference, the Hawks will need their leader in his best form if they are to make playoffs and look to repeat last year’s finish at worst.

Dennis Schrӧder. The German point guard will get his chance to prove himself with the departure of Jeff Teague. However, with the opportunity also comes a bigger amount of pressure. I’m not too sure that Dennis is ready to lead his team and be its starting point guard. But if Schrӧder really has it in him, well, it’s his time to show up.

Key To Victory

Stopping Millsap and exploiting Andrew Wiggins. There really are quite many factors that can influence these games. However, one of the major ones is which team will be able to use their one-on-one advantages better.

The Hawks have an edge at the power forward spot and Gorgui Dieng will have his hands full defending Millsap. A lot will depend on how much he, and the whole team for that matter, can limit Millsap’s productivity. Not only holding him to as few points as possible, but also trying to get him away from the ball and not giving any second chances.

On the other side of the court, Wiggins will have to step up. He averaged 24 points per game last year against the Hawks, but it’s likely that the Wolves will need even more from him this year.


Hawks have a balanced team with many different offensive weapons. They also seem to be a very good defensive team, especially after acquiring Howard.

It’s unclear how will all the pieces fit together and how Schrӧder manages to handle his new responsibilities. However, even though Timberwolves may be very slight favorites here, a 2-0 prediction would probably be too bold. A split is probably the most realistic outcome here.

Next: Timberwolves Player Preview: Andrew Wiggins

The first of the two games will take place on December 21st at the Philips Arena in Atlanta