Atlanta Hawks 2013-2014 Season Preview

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Can Jeff Teague, Al Horford and new addition Paul Millsap guide the Atlanta Hawks out of the middle ranks of the Eastern Conference?

Blazersedge staff writer Chris Lucia will be writing team-by-team previews over the next month as we count down to the start of the 2013-14 season. All team previews can be found right here.

2012-2013 record: 44-38, No. 2 in Southeast Division, No. 6 in Eastern Conference

Roster additions: Pero Antic, Gustavo Ayon, Elton Brand, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Cunningham, Royal Ivey, Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder (Rookie, No. 17 overall)

Roster subtractions: Devin Harris, Ivan Johnson, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Zaza Pachulia, Jannero Pargo, Johan Petro, Josh Smith, DeShawn Stevenson, Jeremy Tyler

In the summer of 2012, Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry initiated phase one of a roster rebuild when he traded Joe Johnson and his massive contract - signed in 2010 for 6 years and about $126 million (!) - to the Brooklyn Nets for expiring contracts, bit parts and a few picks.

This past offseason, Ferry allowed several players to sign with other teams, including versatile forward Josh Smith and center Zaza Pachulia. He then opted to re-sign siwngman Kyle Korver and point guard Jeff Teague to reasonable contracts and extended short-term deals to Elton Brand, DeMarre Carroll, and Paul Millsap. He also replaced former coach Larry Drew with Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, who says he will demand more defensive effort out of a Hawks team that was pretty average on that side of the ball last year.

Ferry's rebuilding efforts don't include losing intentionally for better odds in the 2014 draft lottery. Instead, he's opted to keep the team in playoff contention while building around Teague and forward/center Al Horford. Millsap could be considered a part of that core, but he's only signed for two seasons, so his long-term role with the team is to be determined.

In the mean time, Budenholzer is hoping that Teague vaults his play to the next level in his fifth season in Atlanta. The young point guard improved across the board in his first four years in the league. If he can improve on his outside shot following a 35.9 percent outing in 2012, he can form a deadly outside shooting duo with forward Kyle Korver, who shot a staggering 53.6 percent from three just a few seasons ago in Utah. Last year, in his first season in Atlanta, he launched almost six three-pointers a game at 45.7 percent, so expect the outside barrage to continue from Korver.

Al Horford will again play center for the Hawks, which is not necessarily his preferred position but one that he plays well. He had his best year as a pro last season when he scored 17.4 points on over 53 percent shooting and pulled down 10.2 points a game. At 27, he is in the prime of his career and his All-Star play should continue.

Lou Williams will be a solid guard in the rotation but won't be able to contribute until at least several weeks into the season, when he will most likely assume the starting shooting guard role. DeMarre Carroll is a rotational wing who could see plenty of minutes and should again play solid perimeter defense. He had his best all-around season last year and Budenholzer hopes to see him continue his improvement on both sides of the ball. Dennis Schroder, the No.17 overall pick out of Germany in the 2013 draft, is billed as an athletic, shut-down defender. He'll take the backup point guard minutes and many expect him to impress early with his defensive efforts.

So, where does this team stand in the East? They're likely not as good as the top-level teams in Miami, Chicago and Indiana and they're probably a notch below teams like Brooklyn and New York, as well. On the flipside, they'll probably be more competitive than the Bobcats, Philadelphia, Orlando and likely Boston, too. The Hawks appear to be lingering around the middle of the conference. Some call it mediocrity and refer to it as "No Man's Land," or "NBA purgatory" because most teams in this position get bounced early in the playoffs, have to draft from outside the lottery and can hover at the same level of success for years.

There is solid talent in Atlanta with 2012 holdovers Teague, Horford and Korver and the additions of Brand, Carroll and Millsap went somewhat under the radar this past offseason. But how many wins can this team expect as currently constructed? The Hawks have some good pieces but need a little more talent to really shake the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

Essentially, Atlanta is built to get to the playoffs but not necessarily win in the playoffs, thus resulting in a brief postseason appearance and a draft pick in the middle of the first round, which is hit-or-miss on NBA talent for the most part. Of course, Ferry did bring in coach Budenholzer, who was tutored under Gregg Popovich in a Spurs system that is known for maximizing the talents of players drafted outside of the lottery. Ferry's own pick at No. 17, Schroder, could prove to be one of the bargains of the draft by the end of the season and it certainly appears he is at least somewhat channeling San Antonio in his roster-building philosophy. Either way, Hawks fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach on how it turns out, as Ferry is probably not done tinkering with this roster in both the short and long-terms.

-- Chris Lucia | Twitter

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