The “Three Players to Watch” series is brought to you by the OuttaTownClowns, covering each of the league’s 30 teams providing you with insight on three guys that should demand your attention next season. As you can always expect at the OTC, not every player noted are a team’s top player, instead it may just be a player’s particular situation that’s worth following if you’re a die-hard NBA fan. Up first, the Atlanta Hawks featuring the Three J’s: Jeff, John, and Josh…
1. Jeff Teague
A quick glance at Teague’s year-by-year regular season statistics shows steady improvement each year. Naturally his overall statistics also have to do with receiving increased playing time that hit an all-time high this past season as Teague started in all of the Hawks 66 games last season averaging 33 minutes per outing. However it’s likely Teague won’t be seeing yet another improvement in his performances next season due to the Hawks offseason moves. This summer the Hawks’ two biggest additions came at the guard positions adding Devin Harris via the Joe Johnson trade with Brooklyn and signing free agent guard Louis Williams. It’s unclear as to whether or not the Hawks organization are left unconvinced Teague’s their point guard going forward in the future; but this upcoming season surely is a make or break season for Teague that should determine whether he’ll be considered starter quality or one of the NBA’s best backup point guards come next offseason. Unfortunately Teague may be facing a challenge too tough to overcome, as it’s likely his minutes of opportunity will be decreased with both Harris and Williams on board. In order to prove his worth as a starter Teague must continue to improve his three-point shooting percentage (34% last season) and most importantly his distribution rate as he averaged just below 5 assists per game last season. It’ll be tough and interesting task to watch Teague try to improve yet again next season.
2. John Jenkins
Undoubtedly one of the more NBA-ready rookies in this year’s draft class Jenkins will get a chance to shine in the Hawks rotation next season. Reviewing the Hawks depth chart that includes Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson, there’s a decent chance you may even see Jenkins starting in the shooting guard slot if Head Coach Larry Drew decides to go against the idea of a Teague/Harris backcourt that would lack the 3-point shooting threat that Jenkins certainly provides. Just recently, Jenkins received 48.6% of his peers votes as best shooter in a rookie poll that was released by NBA.com. Jenkins led the nation in three-pointers made per game last season connecting on nearly 4 treys a game. If Jenkins can quickly transition his consistent long range shooting ability to the NBA, he’ll earn a spot on one of the NBA All-Rookie teams.
3. Josh Smith
Last year he was an All-Star game snub, this year he enters a contract year. Watch out folks, Josh Smith is on a mission to get paid! Fantasy basketball players should jump on the opportunity of drafting this guy early into the first round. Last year J-Smoov nearly averaged a double-double putting up 18.8 ppg and collecting 9.6 boards a game, not to mention also averaging 1.4 spg and 1.7 bpg respectively. With the departure of Joe Johnson, Smith will average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game with ease next year. Rest assured he’ll also continue to hold down a 1.5 steals per game average and don’t be a bit surprised to see him get raise his blocks average to 2 per game. With that here’s the first bold statistical prediction for next season: 22.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.1 bpg= Josh Smith.