Jan 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) defends New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: How Do They Stack Up Against The Hawks?

The rebuilding officially begins for the new-look Atlanta Hawks, and they are off to a relatively good start with doing so. With the additions of Paul Milsap and Elton Brand, the Hawks hope to have a tough front court behind Al Horford that will be able to bang down low in the paint. It’s hard to lose a talent like Josh Smith, but the Hawks are hopeful to remain a playoff team and be competitive every night.

Last season the Hawks finished with a 44-38 record and were eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs by the very talented Indiana Pacers. Against a team like the New York Knicks they may not measure up talent wise, but if coached correctly and managed with great precision, the matchup could end up being better than we think.

Backcourt

Oct 10, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0) drives to the basket against the Memphis Grizzlies in the third quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Teague has shown much improvement at the point guard position these past couple seasons and now is a lock as starter and almost a franchise player even. Teague has made it known that he plans to take on more of a leadership role on this younger, inexperienced Atlanta team. Averaging 14.6 ppg, and 7.2 apg, he has shown he is now one of the top up-and-coming point guards in the league. With Teague penned in at the point guard position, it will be intriguing to see what rookie head coach Mike Budenholzer does with rookie point guard Dennis Schroeder. The starting shooting guard for the Hawks is a wide open spot. More than likely, John Jenkins will win the starting 2 guard spot, but coach Budenholzer may have another trick up his sleeve. However, the Hawks also have Lou Williams who could make an impact after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

The Knicks have a much more experienced back court with Felton and Shumpert. Some people may feel that Teague is a better point guard than Felton, but it’s debatable. When it comes to the shooting guard battle though, Shumpert wins almost by default since the Hawks don’t really seem to have a clear-cut starter for the position.

Advantage: New York Knicks

Frontcourt

After choosing not to re-sign Josh Smith or Zaza Pachulia, Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry chose to bring in Elton Brand, Paul Milsap, and draft Lucas Nogueira. If their rookie Nogueria pans out, the Hawks have a very balanced front court that will tough to guard since they all have such great size. Al Horford is now not only the “man in the middle”, but he is also now the franchise player for the club and the entire team is being built around him.

The Hawks have a young cast with Milsap and Horford as the big men and hope to build around them for the future. Millsap has averaged 16.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg. Smith’s numbers are slightly better and he was more well-rounded defensively, but Millsap is a much more natural power forward than Smith ever was. At the small forward position, the Hawks have a couple different options. Kyle Korver may be the starting small forward this season, but there are many different directions they can go with their lineup.

The Knicks now have arguably the most depth in the front court in the entire NBA. With Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Tyson Chandler, there is so much talent to scout against for the Hawks. Although the Hawks do have an improved front court overall, the fact remains that they don’t have a player on their roster that can slow down Anthony. With the loss of Josh Smith, the Hawks now lack a lock down player do have defend a player with the talent of ‘Melo, and that almost automatically gives New York the edge.

Advantage: New York Knicks

Battle of the Benches

The key reserves for the Hawks will be very important in the the team making the playoffs. The bench has a whole new look with more young player coming aboard. Here are the key reserves for the Hawks:

KEY RESERVES: F Elton Brand, F DeMarre Carroll, G Dennis Schroeder, G John Jenkins, G Jared Cunningham, C Gustavo Ayon, F Mike Scott, G Shelvin Mack

Brand is a veteran hand who is more than capable of being the big man off the bench. That’s where his career is at the moment. He will be the sixth man off of the bench which is one of the biggest roles he has received in recent years. The rest of the second unit is virtually untested, with the exception of Carroll, who showed some flashes with the Utah Jazz and was worth a look.

The Knicks bench is much more balanced and deep than the Hawks. The Knicks have Beno Udrih, Amar’e Stoudemire, Metta World Peace, and J.R. Smith all coming off of the bench, which is just sensational. This season will be one of the most exciting ones for Knicks fans in a long time because of how much talent is on the roster.  If Kenyon Martin contributes the way he did last season off of the bench then they will be very tough to beat come deep in the playoffs. Obviously compared to the rebuilding Hawks, the Knicks win the “battle of the benches”.

Advantage: New York Knicks

Coaching Battle

Anyone that comes from Popovich’s regime should get a worthwhile look as a head coach. Budenholzer spent 17 years as an assistant in San Antonio. He turned down several head coaching opportunities over the years to stay with the Spurs. The most important thing for coach Budenholzer to remember is that expectations are not very high this season so there isn’t very much pressure on him as of yet. If they make the playoffs great, if not it is not the end of the road.

Mike Woodson is entering one of his most important seasons of his coaching career. If the Knicks fail to perform in the playoffs then his job is more than likely over with New York, maybe even forever. To be realistic, they will make the playoffs, but it is all up to how his cast performs in the post-season and if they can take that next step. If Woodson can work on some more defensive mechanisms with this talented team, the sky is the limit. Simple fixes can make this team so much better as a whole and he looks to do so this season. The edge between the two coaches would have to go to Woodson since he has been to the playoffs before and Coach Budenholzer has yet to coach a regular season game.

Advantage: New York Knicks

Expectations are low for the Hawks. They are nowhere near the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference. But, Atlanta leads the pack in the next wave. It will be interesting to see how they continue to rebuild and hopefully return to the competitive team they once were. With talents like Teague and Horford paving the way for the Hawks future as a franchise, they can indeed do great things eventually… just not this season.

On the other hand, expectations are very high for the Knicks and fans will be on their toes for every game in hopes to make it further into the playoffs. With a great bench, a great star, and a great coach the Knicks can beat any team they want as long as they play unselfishly and get their teammates involved. It will be a great season for New York and hopefully they can convince Melo into staying in New York for years to come.

Tags: 2013-14 NBA Season Atlanta Hawks Carmelo Anthony Jeff Teague New York Knicks

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