Southeast Division Outlook: Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks

Mar 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) during the first half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) during the first half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks look formidable this season with a deep front court after signing hometown hero Dwight Howard to play alongside Paul Millsap. Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore form a good back court duo to go up against the Chicago Bulls’ “Three Alphas”.

The Atlanta Hawks got older with signing Dwight Howard and key players like Kyle Korver and Kris Humphries with only Taurean Prince, Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore as the young guys.

They don’t really have a go-to offensive player. Except for … Dwight Howard?

The Chicago Bulls on the other hand, got younger and got the best experienced talent in the offseason in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls have a young core coming into their own this season, while the Hawks have plenty of guys going into their last hurrah.

Player Matchups: Howard’s Resurrection vs. the Wade-Rondo-Butler Ring Run

This may be the year that stud scoring guard Dennis Schröder becomes an NBA All-Star if he can put up the numbers.

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  • But, his 2016 playoff performance showed everyone how young and raw he still is compared with the Bulls’ own back court.  Taurean Prince might have an interesting rookie season as a three-and-D sixth man if he can put up the numbers.

    The Hawks will need him to play plenty of minutes given their aging front court. Plus, Dwight Howard excels on defense and on rebounding if he tandems with a strong defensive big. The Hawks can run more if they pack the paint with Howard, Paul Millsap and Prince.

    The team can also ease into a strong post-up game with Howard and Millsap after punishing their opponents on defense. Atlanta may be the team that allows Howard to recover plenty of lost glory by playing with people who don’t run out and shoot threes like crazy and are actually built to strongly support the rim protector and post player.

    Atlanta will be strong in the paint with their bigs and with Schröder attacking the rim at will, but the team should still take advantage of knockdown shooters like Korver. It was just sad watching both Dennis Schröder and Jeff Teague force shots inside instead of setting up Korver with kick-outs in the playoffs last year. Too much hot-dogging can cost you not just games but a playoff series. Robin Lopez should bring Schröder down back to earth if he drives the lane too many times.

    Considering that Jimmy Butler can lock down the Hawks’ best shooter or playmaker and the rest of the Bulls can run a scoring and shooting clinic if Hoiball finally revs up this year, expect the older team to run out of gas.

    If Howard and company can’t cover the perimeter or stay in front of the Bulls’ scoring threats when they go inside, the Bulls show the Hawks and the entire NBA just how good Gar Forman was in cherry-picking Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott in the draft.

    Add Bobby Portis‘ maturing game and Fred Hoiberg has his Cyclone offense in place already. The Bulls’ defensive guards will try to keep Schröder from getting his production and run rings around Howard by tricking him to sag down before they kick-out to a shooter or lob it to Butler and Wade if Howard and Millsap close in.

    On a last note, Tony Snell should really play like Dennis Schröder plays: Aggressive, and attacking the rim off the dribble. And since Snell is longer and has a stronger build, he should get to the rim faster and higher than Schröder. Both have a slow release long-range shot, but it is Schröder who plays dynamite, while Snell plays passive-aggressively.

    Coaching: Fred Hoiberg vs. Mike Budenholzer

    Mike Budenholzer seems to always have the Chicago Bulls’ number, but this year, Fred Hoiberg gets to prove to the NBA that his offense with inside-outside prolific scorers can beat any defense. Hoiberg has always overcome adversity if given people who accept their role in his system. He has also proven that he can adjust his system to play to the strengths of his best players.

    Next: Southeast Division Outlook: Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat

    The Chicago Bulls beat the Howard Rockets twice last year because James Harden hogged the ball too much and the Rockets’ shootout offense isn’t as refined as Hoiball is. The Hawks won’t be playing like a James Harden-ran team anytime this year, but Dennis Schröder still has to prove that he can carry the team on his shoulders as a solid playmaker.

    Budenholzer’s system relies on ball movement to get his shooters going, but with Howard on the team, he may shift to a post-up game more, wearing down and grinding out opponents.

    Atlanta can beat overachieving teams like Boston quite handily, but might have a hard time against teams that have legit scoring stars like Dwyane Wade. Hoiberg will have Wade running around Hawks defenders and kicking out the ball to the Bulls shooters or slinging pocket passes to diving bigs all game long.

    We’d love to see Portis or Felicio slam it home against Millsap and Howard when the Bulls face off against the Hawks. Wade alone makes matchups difficult, but the Bulls scorers have to gun it like cowboys to make the job of the Chicago Bulls’ “Three Alphas” much easier.

    We’ll see which team has the better coach this year with both teams equipped with player pieces they really like.