Lately, the Atlanta Hawks have been all about balance. On the offensive end, their success hasn’t been reliant on one or two players carrying the load. Defensively they were extremely solid last season, posting the second best Defensive Rating (98.8) behind the San Antonio Spurs.
Having formally changed from Jeff Teague to Dennis Schroder at point guard and from Al Horford to Dwight Howard at center, Hawks big man Tiago Splitter told AJC.com that his team’s defense is flat out better for it:
“(Howard) is a little bit more of a defensive player than Al, more rebounds, more physical presence on the court,” Splitter said. “That is going to change our team. … Dennis, he is also a great defender. He’s a better defender than Jeff. He will pressure the point guard the whole court. He is growing up and getting more solid.”
Horford and Howard are different types of presences as defensive players. As Splitter put it, Howard just has more of a physical presence. Horford is an impactful defender but doesn’t have rim-protecting ability like Howard. Schroder has more of a defensive identity than Teague, who had more of an offensive advantage.
Defense is going to be pretty important for the Hawks. They’re not built to be a high-powered offensive team. That hasn’t been the case recently, either, so an amazing challenge presents itself for Howard specifically, who has another chance to take the reigns of his own team. The challenge for him is being a high-level impact on both ends of the floor again, but proving to be something of a forceful defensive anchor would be a productive start.