With the dust mostly settled on this offseason’s player movement — and there was a whole lot of it this year — it’s time to take stock of all the fascinating new faces in new places, as well as the more compelling stories of players who will face new challenges while sticking around. Over the course of the next few weeks, Andrew Unterberger will do a team-by-team look at the most interesting players going into next season — one new to the team, and one returning — as we all try to pass the dog days of NBA-less summer, dreaming of hoops-filled months to come. The series continues today with the teams in the Southeast Division: the Hawks, Bobcats, Heat, Magic and Wizards.
Most Interesting New Player: Dennis Schroeder
Yeah, I know this guy is kind of a trendy pick after his Summer League success and all, but man, did you see this guy? That video of assists-that-weren’t Trey posted a few weeks ago should be all you need to see to get excited about Schroeder, and every game I watched of his left me more convinced that he was eventually going to be Rajon Rondo with better shooting range. “Eventually” might not be next year, but I don’t think the court vision and basic floor general confidence on the level Schroeder seemed to display in Vegas could end up being a mirage — if there was one showcase rookie this year whose skills were legit, I’d bet it’s Schroeder. It was a little disappointing that Atlanta balked and re-signed Jeff Teague. It’s a fair deal, sure, but if they’d seen Schroeder’s Summer League game first, I think they’d leave pretty convinced this was their Point Guard of the Future.
Also disappointing that Schroeder probably won’t be joined by fellow rookie Bebe Noguiera on the court this year, as it looks like the Hawks are keeping him stashed overseas for a season. Nogueira was extremely impressive himself in Vegas, and the two showed surprisingly good on-court chemistry and such awesome rookie duos are pretty rare these days. Between them and John Jenkins/Mike Scott in ’12, Atlanta has had a couple sneaky awesome drafts now since Danny Ferry came over.
Most Interesting Returning Player: Al Horford
I guess? I didn’t find any of the players on their roster last year all that interesting, which is why I hoped they’d blow it up in the offseason, which they sorta did but not really. I actually kinda feel bad for Horford, since after a half-decade of playing out of position at center to accommodate the undersized Josh Smith at power forward, Smith finally flew the coop, and they just replaced him with another undersized power forward, one who should also take plenty of post touches away from Horford. At least this is the East, where there are only like two centers you really have to worry about killing you down low on offense, but man, it might be nearly a decade into his career before Al gets to maybe play his actual position on the court with any regularity. Seems like a raw deal.