Millsap: Howard should help Hawks ’ floor spacing

Count Paul Millsap among those in the Hawks organization would initially believe that the addition of Dwight Howard will help the team’s offensive floor spacing next season.

While the Hawks are still two months from the start of training camp — when principles turn into practice — several players and coaches have indicated such a change may be the end result of the acquisition.

Howard is a traditional center, a roll-to-the-basket big man, signed this summer. He replaces Al Horford, a stretch-five with a 3-point shot, who joined the Celtics last month.

How does Millsap expect the Hawks’ offense be different with the addition of Howard?

“Offensively, we have a consistent roll guy, a guy who can put pressure on the basket every time you set a pick-and-roll,” Millsap told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “He’s a guy you have to pay attention to down low. We are hoping, and I think everyone sees the vision, of the court opening up. A lot more open shots. A little more physicality. Things that we needed to get better at, I think we have.”

Millsap added that opponents will have to pay close attention to Howard’s ability to play inside. If that is the case, shots should be available on the perimeter. It will be a contrast from a system where Horford pulled the opposition away from the basket.

“They are two good players,” Millsap said of Horford and Howard. “Al has evolved into a good 3-point shooter. A lot of times, he was popping on the screens. We know what Dwight is going to do. He’s going to roll hard to the basket. The defense has to zone in and sync down. The open shots will be available. We’ve got to knock them down.”

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said last month that he may be more comfortable with an offense that incorporates a traditional big man who can get inside the paint on offense and protect the rim on defense.

Millsap spoke before a charitable event where he distributed 600 backpacks filled with school supplies to students at Hollis Innovation Academy. Here are his thoughts on some of the other offseason moves of the Hawks:

On the overall roster changes: “Good moves. It should be a great year for us. We filled in the gaps that we needed to fill in. I think we’ve got a lot of young talent that is capable of being something special. Around the board, I think we did a good job of being able to compete in this league.”

On losing Jeff Teague and Horford: “Al, congratulations on his new big contract. I know he’ll do well. It’s always tough to see your friends and teammates who you went to battle with through the year to leave and go somewhere different, especially in the East.”

On Dennis Schroder replacing Teague at point guard: “Dennis and Jeff are two different players. Dennis is still learning. He’s on the rise. I think he knows what he needs to get better at. He knows what we want from him. Hopefully this year, he’ll put all together.”

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