Having tons of familiarity with the team that we follow, but not being as knowledgeable about what’s going on around the league, is something we’re all a little guilty of. I’m going to try and make an effort this year to reach out and network with some other SB Nation bloggers around the NBA to preview significant games on Orlando’s schedule. This time around, Brad Rowland of Peachtree Hoops was kind enough to answer some questions I prepared for him to help preview Thursday’s match-up between the Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.
1) Orlando and Atlanta are both heading in the same direction this year, towards the NBA Draft lottery. I know it’s early, but have you put much thought into which prospect(s) would be the best fit for the Hawks? Or perhaps just an early favorite prospect?
Brad Rowland (@BTRowland): It is definitely early but I think it all depends on where the Hawks land. For me, DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic are in a two-player tier at the top and, after a bit of a drop-off, you get into the area with Trae Young, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and (maybe) Michael Porter, depending on his injury.
The Hawks have some fit concerns but, unless a player directly clashes with John Collins, they shouldn’t be significant enough to force ATL’s hand.
2) How active do you think the Hawks will be as the NBA Trade Deadline approaches this Thursday? Are there any players on Atlanta’s roster that you predict are likely be moved?
Rowland: I think the Hawks have every reason to be active, with only Collins as anything approaching “off the market” status. It certainly appears as if Marco Belinelli will be traded and Ersan Ilyasova likely will be if he is willing to waive his implicit no-trade clause.
Other than that, maybe Dewayne Dedmon but the guys on multi-year deal don’t appear overly likely to be moved.
3) Talk a little bit for us about John Collins. What are your impressions about the rookie’s game (his strengths, weaknesses, etc.)? Is Collins a piece that Atlanta seems encouraged to use as building-block as they reform their roster?
Rowland: Collins is the best on-roster asset for the Hawks. Atlanta’s own 2018 first round pick is the best asset the team has overall but Collins is in a tier by himself in terms of actual players. That, of course, doesn’t mean that he’s the team’s best player right now (that would be Kent Bazemore) but Collins has been super efficient and productive in his limited time. If anything, he should play more and he looks to be well ahead of schedule defensively, which was his biggest issue entering the draft.
I’m not sure Collins will be a star but he is already a productive NBA rotation big man and that is a huge win for the No. 19 pick in his rookie season.
4) Finally, is there a positional match-up Thursday when the Hawks visit the Magic that you are looking forward to seeing?
Rowland: With Gordon out and Vucevic questionable, I’d turn my attention more to the perimeter. The match-up between Elfrid Payton and Dennis Schroder in a battle of point guards with uncertain futures is definitely interesting and, beyond that, the winner of the Bazemore/Prince vs. Fournier/Simmons duel would have a leg up to see what happens on the scoreboard.
I want to again thank Brad Rowland from Peachtree Hoops for helping us preview the Atlanta Hawks in anticipation of tomorrow’s match-up against the Magic. Game-time is set for 7:00 P.M. at the Amway Center.