News and Notes: Dedmon & Hunter Probable Against Magic as Hawks Enter Homestand
The Hawks have two primary goals for their final 23 games of the season: to get healthy and to gather as much information on its young core as possible. Those two pursuits are interconnected -- the latter is largely dependent on the former -- and while no realistic amount of success over the rest of the year can salvage a snake-bitten season, Atlanta can, at the very least, use a positive finish to propel itself into a potentially more successful campaign next year.
The Hawks will look to generate some of that momentum this week with a four-game homestand -- their longest remaining stretch at home of the season -- against the Magic, Nets, Trail Blazers, and Grizzlies. All four are winnable (though decidedly not easy) games, and Atlanta won't play another opponent currently over .500 until March 18.
The Hawks are 2-1 against Orlando so far this season, having lost the last matchup on February 10. The Magic are currently above the playoff line in the East, but are 6-10 in their last 16 games and will be without Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu on Monday.
Atlanta has struggled against the Nets this season, going winless in three tries thus far. Brooklyn won't have Kyrie Irving, who has been ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury, but defeated the Hawks twice without the All Star earlier in the year. In his absence, Spencer Dinwiddie and Garrett Temple led the Nets to victory with explosive scoring efforts, and Brooklyn has killed Atlanta on the offensive glass in three wins.
The Hawks have only played the Blazers once -- an overtime loss in Portland on November 10. Both teams will look vastly different on Saturday, though those changes could affect Portland more than Atlanta. The All Star guard has missed the last two games with a groin injury and is tentatively slated to return sometime in the next few games. If he can't go against Atlanta, the Blazers could struggle to generate offense even against one of the NBA's worst defenses.
Atlanta has not yet faced the Grizzlies this year, and will pack both of their games against Memphis into a five-day window next week. Those meetings will feature two of the most electric young point guards in the NBA in Trae Young and Ja Morant. The Grizzlies are in the midst of a competitive race for the eighth seed in the West, and while the Hawks are all but eliminated in the East, they could wind up playing spoiler for a Grizzlies team without its second-best player, Jaren Jackson Jr.
Atlanta is dealing with minor injuries to some of its rotation pieces, as well as more serious ailments in Clint Capela's right heel and Skal Labissière's left knee. De'Andre Hunter is still dealing with a sprained right ankle he suffered in late January against the 76ers while DeAndre' Bembry will miss Monday's game with abdominal pain. Dewayne Dedmon, meanwhile, is currently probable against the Magic with right elbow pain.
I do not know how long or the degree to which Dedmon has experienced discomfort in that elbow, but it might partially explain his poor shooting over his first six games in Atlanta. The big man is just 5-of-20 from behind the 3-point line as a Hawk this year after shooting over 38 percent a year ago, and some of his misses have not looked great coming off his hand. He has been an important part of Atlanta's 3-3 record with him in the lineup due to his defensive impact and understanding of the team's system on both ends of the floor. Opponents have give him varying degrees of respect as a shooter, but as long as his reputation from last season stays with him, he could help open up space on offense even if the shots themselves aren't going in frequently.
The option of playing Collins at center with Hunter and Cam Reddish rounding out the frontcourt has emerged as an increasingly viable option, which has helped mitigate some of Dedmon's less effective stretches and his foul trouble. But until Capela returns to the court, Dedmon will remain central to Atlanta's effort to make the most of a friendly schedule over the remaining portion of the season.