Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice. Here is the roster breakdown story for Tuesday’s print edition of the AJC.
Less than a week remains before NBA rosters must be trimmed to a maximum of 15 players by Monday. The Hawks brought 19 players into training camp and the roster now stands at one over the limit. It is possible the team will go into the regular season with fewer than the maximum, allowing management flexibility to make an early-season trade or signing.
Here is a look at how the roster is shaping up prior to the Nov. 2 regular-season opener.
The Hawks will have at least 13 players on their roster. Only 13 will be active for games. They have guaranteed contracts with 11 veterans and first-round draft pick John Jenkins. Second-round pick Mike Scott has a partially guaranteed contract. His contract becomes fully guaranteed if he is still on the roster Jan. 10.
Of keeping all 13 guarantees on the roster head coach Larry Drew said, “That is pretty set.”
Drew said he and general manager Danny Ferry have yet to decide on how many players they will keep.
“For me, and I’ve done it both ways,” Drew said of staying at or below the maximum. “We’ve had 13 and we’ve kept two spots open. I’ve had 14 and we’ve kept one. Or we’ve kept 15 guys. It’s a matter of looking at what we feel is going to be the best for our club. We’ve got some guys in here who are fighting for a roster spot. Guys I really like. After this is all said and done we’ll sit down with management and make a decision.”
Three for one
If the Hawks keep 15 players that leaves Anthony Tolliver, Damion James and James Anderson competing for the two remaining spots. Tolliver (6-foot-8) and James (6-7) give the Hawks options at the forward position. Anderson (6-6) is a guard, a position the Hawks have depth. Defensive ability, and how quickly each learns schemes, may well decide who stays.
James has impressed with his play during exhibition games. He has appeared in five games, including two starts, and has averaged 7.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. He came off the bench in Saturday’s win over Dallas and had 10 points and seven rebounds in less than 17 minutes.
“I think I’ve been doing pretty good the whole preseason,” James said. “I’m going to continue to play the way I play. If you play the way you are supposed to play, good things will happen.”
In six exhibitions, Tolliver has averaged 8.0 points and 3.7 rebounds. Anderson, in five games, has averaged 1.8 points and 0.8 rebounds.
In the numerous offseason moves made by Ferry, the Hawks became a smaller team than in the recent past. It’s an issue, especially on the defensive end, that the team will have to overcome.
“We might just be a little undersized,” Josh Smith said. “We were undersized before but we are very undersized now. That shouldn’t be an issue. We have a lot of feisty and competitive people on this team who hate to lose. I think that will outweigh the so-called decreases that this team has.”
The Hawks consider their three speedy guards, all capable of playing the point, an asset. Jeff Teague returns with Devin Harris and Lou Williams added to the mix. Harris and Williams, and perhaps eventually Teague, can also play shooting guard. Each are an option to replace Joe Johnson.
The Hawks added a number of long-range shooters at the position in Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow and Jenkins.
Smith will return as the power forward. Ivan Johnson and Scott will be backups. Johnson can play center if pressed into action. Korver and Stevenson may see time at small forward.
“That gives us some flexibility from the standpoint that if we need to adapt and make some minor adjustments with our lineup we have the ability to do that,” Drew said.
A healthy Al Horford will start at center. He will be backed up by Zaza Pachulia and Johan Petro. There will be times when Drew wants a bigger lineup that Pachulia will play center, Horford power forward and Smith small forward.
The starting lineup is to be determined at shooting guard and small forward. It appears that Harris and Stevenson will initially fill those positions based on exhibition games. However, Drew stresses no decisions have been made and the lineup likely will change based on matchups.
The coach said he will sit down with each player this week to discuss his role. He wants to avoid any confusion.
“So everybody will be clear,” Drew said. “So there won’t be any guess work about ‘What am I supposed to do? What do you want me to do?’ We’ll eliminate that.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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