It was a tough season for Atlanta Hawks’ shooting guard Kyle Korver. Known for his propensity of raining 3-pointers, Korver not only saw his scoring average dip to below double figures, but his 3-point percentage dropped below 40 percent as well despite playing 80 games.
It is easy to wonder if Father Time had caught up to the now 35-year-old Korver, who is about to enter his 14th year in the league. And after the Hawks went through some major changes in the offseason, some wondered if Korver would be on the team, especially with one year left on a deal that is scheduled to pay him $5.2 million this season.
But Korver is back. Now fully healthy and with the addition of legitimate All-Star center Dwight Howard, the Hawks are expecting him to be back to his long-range sharp-shooting self. Korver expects that as well, and the work to get back to that status started in the offseason.
That wasn’t the case entering last season. Korver was recovering from ankle and elbow surgeries during the summer and wasn’t able to work out. That, he believes, played a role in his season.
Korver has never been a big scorer in the NBA. His career average is 10.0 points per game and he has never averaged more than 14.4 points per game. That came early in his career (2006-07) when he came off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers. That season he also led the league in free-throw shooting (91.4 percent) and shot 43.0 percent from the 3-point line.
Last season, Korver averaged 9.2 points per game and shot 39.8 percent from the 3-point line. His average was the lowest since the 2011-12 season when he was with the Chicago Bulls. His 3-point percentage of 39.8 percent was his lowest since the 2008-09 season when he was with Utah, while his 158 3-pointers made were the lowest since that 2011-12 season when he made 118 in 65 games.
Those numbers were very uncharacteristic. Kover has led the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage three times (2009-10, 2013-14 and 2014-15) and averages 42.9 percent from the 3-point line for his career.
However, Korver finished the season with the third-best plus-minus rating in the Eastern Conference. When he was on the floor, Atlanta outscored their opponents by 427 points. Only LeBron James (618) and Kevin Love (418) had better numbers in the Eastern Conference.
But there’s another reason why Korver should expect to have better numbers: He should get easier shots because of Howard.
Howard is a true center who won’t venture much outside the lane. He will demand double teams while in the post. That should free up a shooter like Korver, who made a lot of big shots in transition with the Hawks in the past. While the Hawks will still try to get transition baskets, if they have to go to the halfcourt game, Howard should help free up Korver.
Many believe last year was more of a fluke season than the beginning of the end for Korver, but this year will tell a lot. Now that he is healthy and has a player like Howard that commands a lot of attention, Korver should be licking his chops at the open shots he could get.
The Hawks have made the playoffs nine straight seasons but have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals just once. That came two seasons ago when Korver was lost in the playoffs after suffering an ankle injury.
Korver needs to have a good season if the Hawks want to duplicate that achievement.