Atlanta Hawks Blog

A blog about Atlanta’s NBA franchise, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Dedmon injury might turn Hawks from not good to plain bad

The Hawks say Dewayne Dedmon will be out least three weeks , and as many as six, with a leg injury. That’s at least 11 games, and as many as 20, that the Hawks will be without their best frontcourt player.

The Hawks have remained reasonably competitive (minus-6 average point differential) despite significant injuries early in the season. But I think Dedmon’s injury might be the one that finally downgrades them from not good to just plain bad.

(And if you are on Team Tank, Dedmon’s injury is a downer because his solid play in an bigger role likely was creating some trade value. Now, he will have less time to show what he can do before the deadline.)

Dedmon has been good for the Hawks in his first NBA season as a full-time starter: efficient scorer, good rebounder, effective defender. I’m not saying he’d be a starter  for a good team, but he's a solid player and the Hawks aren’t good enough to easily absorb his loss.

Dedmon is the only Hawks big man who is both an effective NBA rotation player and playing well this season. The rest are either one or the other.

John Collins is playing well but he’s a rookie who is prone to foul trouble (more on that later).

Luke Babbitt has been pretty good but last year with the Heat was the first time he played more than 845 minutes.

Ersan Ilyasova has been an effective NBA player for a long time but hasn’t played well this season even when healthy.

Tyler Cavanaugh has been pretty good but he's a rookie who started off the season in the G-League.

Miles Plumlee has played just nine minutes this season and is coming off a career-worst year.

Those five players will make up the power rotation until Dedmon returns to the lineup.

“You start John and Luke and then you have Ersan, Cavanaugh and Miles to back them up,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We feel really good and comfortable with Tyler. There is some depth.”

Budenholzer said Collins will remain in the starting lineup with Babbitt back in the fold. That's a silver lining to Dedmon's injury. The Hawks were going to lose a lot of games with or without Dedmon and now Collins gets a chance to show what he can do playing starters’ minutes for a month or more.

Or at least that’s what will happen if Collins can stay on the court. He’s averaging 5.8 fouls per 36 minutes played, and the majority of those minutes came against backup bigs. Now Collins will spend most of his time tangling with starter-quality centers almost every night, and most of them have a size advantage against him.

“Going against starter guys, they kind of have a different mentality,” Collins said. “It’s something to get used to but it’s all part of my development. If I want to be the player I want I’ve got to lock in and play the best I can.”

Collins has been a good rookie from the moment he checked in for his first game in Dallas. I can’t think of any downside to him playing more minutes against starters. I don’t get the sense that his confidence will suffer from when he is inevitably over-matched by bigger, better and older centers. And already some of those centers have had their hands full with the energetic, springy rookie.

Collins said Dedmon’s injury “puts a lot of pressure on all of us (bigs) to pick up the slack.” He said Bundeholzer hasn’t given him any special instructions now that he will be the starter for a long stretch of the season.

“Doing the same thing I’ve been doing now,” Collins said. “He’s given me the trust to (be) in the starting lineup so I’ve been trying to respect that and playing the way I’ve been playing. Just playing with a lot of heart, a lot of energy, a lot of athleticism. Use my athleticism on the offensive and defensive end and be very active.”

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.