Grading Every Key Atlanta Hawks Player Heading into NBA All-Star Break

Dan Schultz@DSchultz89Contributor IFebruary 10, 2014

Grading Every Key Atlanta Hawks Player Heading into NBA All-Star Break

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    The Atlanta Hawks currently hold a 25-24 record, good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

    Some slippage was expected after the crushing loss of Al Horford for the rest of the season, but the Hawks have still played relatively well after losing their star player in December.

    Now, it is time to grade all the key players of the Atlanta Hawks as they head into the NBA All-Star Break, from worst to best:

Jeff Teague

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    Jeff Teague has had a difficult year after coming back to play with Atlanta on a four-year deal worth $32 million this past summer.

    While many might look at his stats (15.8 points per game, 7.3 assists per game) and his age (25) and think that he is progressing normally, his percentages are what tell the actual story.

    Teague is shooting a miserable 41 percent clip from the field to go along with an even worse 26 percent mark from outside. He is also turning the ball over way more than he should be (3.2 a game), and has been very inconsistent all year in his overall offensive production.

    He is still young, but he needs to pick up the pace given the high expectations attached to his newly inked contract.

    He might want to abandon his three-point game altogether for this year and focus on driving and kicking, which is really his specialty given his blinding speed and crafty moves.

    Everybody knows that he is talented, but he has not utilized his skills as well as he could so far. Luckily, there is still plenty of time for a recovery, and the Hawks have shown that they are invested in him for the long haul.

    It is time to step up in a big way.

    Grade: C+

Pero Antic

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    Before being replaced by Miles Plumlee due to injury, the 31-year old rookie Pero Antic was named to the Rising Stars Game after posting averages of 5.8 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game for the first half of the year.

    He started out the year receiving little playing time, but after Al Horford went down for the year, Antic was thrust into the starting lineup.

    So far, the results have been a mixed bag.

    What the Hawks need most from the 6’11”, 260-pound center is rebounding, where they are currently ranked 26th in the league.

    As a starter, Antic has only posted double-digit marks in rebounds once (12 against the Orlando Magic, and averaged only 5.9 rebounds per game for the month of January.

    On the flip side, he shot a high percentage from the field at 49.2 percent during January, including getting double-digit points five times.

    Given that he is a rookie and that going from reserve to starter for a top tier team is no easy transition, I will let my gripes with his rebounding slide a bit. However, the Hawks definitely need him to be an imposing figure on the glass as he gets more acclimated to his new role once he gets back from injury.

    Grade: B-

Louis Williams

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    While I will give Louis Williams a break for being hurt over the last couple of years, he has still been a disappointment so far after signing a three-year deal with the Hawks in the summer of 2012.

    This year, he is shooting the lowest percentage of his career from the field, at only 38 percent. With that said, he has maintained solid marks from outside at 37 percent to go along with his ability to play either guard position, as evidenced by his 3.6 assists per game.

    Any true NBA fan knows that Williams has the ability to average much more than the 9.4 points per game he has posted so far this year off the bench. In fact, he scored 14.1 points per game in the 39 games he played with Atlanta last year before suffering a torn ACL.

    Maybe he is still working his way back from that season-ending injury that occurred last year. Perhaps the emergence of Shelvin Mack has led to his slight decrease in minutes seen. However, Lou-Will has the ability to be one of the best sixth men in the league when healthy and cooking.

    So far, he has not been that. Hawks fans are still holding out hope he returns to his old self soon, as he remains a vital factor for whether or not this team will make a deep playoff push this year.

    Grade: B-

Elton Brand

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    Once a dominant player at his position and envied by any team on the open market, Elton Brand is definitely not what he used to be.

    With that said, he appears to have fully embraced his responsibilities as a role player and veteran presence.

    Brand is currently averaging 4.8 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game on 54.4 percent shooting from the field in only 15.2 minutes per game.

    He is essentially an older version of the guy starting in front of him, Paul Millsap.

    Although he is undersized, he possesses a high motor and an ability to shoot well from the field and snag rebounds despite not being the biggest guy on the court.

    He has had issues getting in foul trouble in his playing time, which is definitely a red flag, but overall, Brand has been a solid sub for Atlanta so far.

    Grade: B+

Mike Scott

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    For a 2012 second-round draft pick, Mike Scott has made it clear that he is a keeper.

    The 6’8”, 237-pound big man from Virginia is a huge cog in the Hawks bench unit.

    He has doubled his scoring per game from last year (4.6 points per game to 9.2, respectively), while shooting 48 percent from the field. This has led to an increase in minutes and the trust of the coaching staff.

    Scott is still a work in progress and needs to work on being a defensive presence inside, as demonstrated by only averaging 0.1 blocks per game and 0.3 steals per game.

    He should also work on improving his rebounding game (3.5 a game). After all, if an undersized, older power forward like Elton Brand can average over four a game in fewer minutes played per game, the younger Scott has no excuse not to at least match him there.

    The 25-year old has a bright future ahead of him and is a threat on the block down low. He is definitely an exciting prospect for Atlanta as the season moves closer to the playoffs.

    Grade: B+

Shelvin Mack

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    Shelvin Mack has bounced around the league during his first three seasons, but it appears as though he is here to stay in Atlanta after finally carving out a spot in Mike Budenholzer’s rotation.

    Mack is a combo-guard who is known mostly for his shooting during his days at Butler, but his passing is what really makes him a dangerous threat. He is currently averaging 3.6 assists per game for the league's No. 1 passing team, to go along with 7.8 points per game.

    His percentages might be a little low given the kind of reputation he has as a shooter, but it always takes a player time to find consistency with a new team, especially a young one.

    Mack can improve on his 44 percent shooting from the field, and perhaps even push himself into the coveted 40 percent group of players in the second half of the year.

    Overall, given his minutes and his ability to be a playmaker on the court, Mack has definitely surpassed expectations and has given Coach Bud a great player to use off the bench to run the offense and handle the rock.

    Grade: A-

DeMarre Carroll

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    DeMarre Carroll has been a perfect fit for head coach Mike Budenholzer’s system.

    His career track record, given the five teams he has played on in his short career, as well as how he plays the game overall, suggests he could be a Bruce Bowen type player in this league some day.

    This year, he is finally getting consistent playing time, and in addition to his defense being superb (1.5 steals per game) as expected, his offense has been a pleasant surprise. Carroll is currently posting 10.4 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from the three.

    He is a big, bruising forward who knows his role as being the team’s “lockdown defender”, and he has done a phenomenal job so far.

    The Hawks are certainly hoping he can continue to improve on his offensive game as well and potentially become an option for them down the stretch.

    One thing is for certain, Carroll has finally found a home in Atlanta, and has rewarded this team for giving him a chance to prove he can be a starter in the NBA.

    Grade: A-

Kyle Korver

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    Kyle Korver’s shooting percentages define the term “shooting guard”.

    After inking a four-year $24 million extension over the offseason, Korver has been worth every penny.

    He has been lights out all over the court, knocking down 48 percent of his shots from the field, a ridiculous 46 percent from the three, as well as 92 percent of his free throws.

    He is also seeing career highs in minutes (34.4 a game) to go along with his impressive averages.

    He should definitely attempt to pick up his scoring (12.0 points per game) a little bit more given his percentages, but not at the risk at forcing himself too much into the offense. He is masterful at doing exactly what is asked of him, which is playing within the offense and taking what the defense gives him.

    Grade: A-

Paul Millsap

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    Paul Millsap was recently named to the Eastern Conference All-Stars, his first time being named an All-Star.

    He went on a tear during the month of January after his post buddy Al Horford went down with a season-ending injury. Millsap averaged 20.6 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game on 46 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent shooting from three-point land.

    He earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of January 20th – January 26th. Shortly after this, he was selected as an All-Star reserve.

    Millsap has been absolutely lights out for his new team. It is never easy to come to a new squad, under a rookie head coach, and be named an All-Star in your first year, but he has done all of this already.

    He will have to continue to be the go-to player for Atlanta in the second half of the season. It is clear that he is their main offensive option and will have to be a consistent force to be reckoned with for the rest of the year.

    Grade: A