By Ben Standig and Brian Jackson
Best offseason move: The Hawks seemed poised for a monster signing after shedding salary. That never happened. Instead, general manager Danny Ferry fortified the rotation with smaller, but notable additions, including the signing of free agent guard Kent Bazemore. The former Old Dominion star is a defensive force that also averaged over 13 points per game in 23 games with the Lakers last season following a trade with the Warriors. In a division with arguably four All-Star wing guard candidates, having a ball-hawking defender will prove all kinds of important.
Key player: Al Horford. Atlanta had a 16-13 record when the big man went down with a season-ending injury. Over the final 53 games, 22-31. Sure the Hawks lost scoring, rebounding and defense without the 6-foot-10 center. They also lost leadership and the player the team's overall mental focus relied upon. With Horford back, Atlanta has a chance at a top-4 finish in the East.
Storyline to watch entering training camp: Atlanta re-signed point guard Shelvin Mack after the ex-Wizard had a nice playoff series versus Indiana. But can Mack hold off Dennis Schroder as the primary backup to Jeff Teague?
Best Worst offseason move: The Hawks entered this summer with $11.5 million in cap space. Their biggest need was wing scoring and several players were available to fill that void. Atlanta probably didn’t have a good shot at signing LeBron James, Dwayne Wade or Carmelo Anthony. But they also whiffed on Gordon Hayward, Lance Stephenson, and Chandler Parsons. The signings of both Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore are good value for the price. Atlanta’s best scorer at both wing positions is Kyle Korver, at 12.0 points per game.
Key player: Last season Atlanta made the playoffs with Al Horford missing most of the year and with his return a top four spot in the Eastern Conference is within reach. But the Hawks won’t take another big step unless Jeff Teague continues to improve. The point guard nearly led the Hawks to a playoff upset of the No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers. With Horford injured and the wings unable to create their own offense, Teague was forced into taking a lot of contested shots. If he can improve his shot selection and raise his assists total (6.7 per game last season), Teague may even find a spot on the All-Star team.
Storyline to watch entering training camp: Can Horford stay healthy? A torn right pectoral ended his season last December. He also missed 55-regular season games in 2011-12 after tearing his left pectoral muscle.