The NBA’s Biggest Disappointment: The Atlanta Hawksby Jackson Caudell November 10, 2021 0 comments
This was not the start that the Atlanta Hawks had in mind coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Atlanta is off to a 4-7 start and has looked like a below-average team through the early part of this season. The Hawks were a team that had high expectations coming into the season and were thought to be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The season is still young and there is plenty of time to turn things around. However, there is a lot that the Hawks are going to have to fix.
A Struggling Bench Unit and Rotation decisions
The first reason that the Hawks have struggled is the poor play on their bench. Second, there have been some questionable rotation decisions by head coach Nate McMillan. Atlanta traded for point guard Delon Wright in the offseason to be the backup to Trae Young. Furthermore, Wright has played well when given the opportunity. The problem has been that he is not been given opportunities in every game.
McMillan has deferred to veteran Lou Williams in some games and Williams has played poorly to start the year. Williams is respected in the locker room and can be a spark when is hot shooting. However, he is a huge liability defensively. The Hawks look much better with Wright on the floor and he makes a lot of winning contributions such as rebounding and his defense. It is not clear why Wright is not playing more, but he has earned a bigger role with this team.
Kevin Huerter was supposed to be one of the contenders for the sixth man of the year award, but he has struggled shooting the ball this season. Danilo Gallinari is terrible defensively and any time that he and Williams have shared the floor, it has been a disaster on the defensive end. Cam Reddish has shown moments of being capable but is not consistent. The Hawks are supposed to be one of the deepest teams in the league, but the bench is going to have to play better for the team to have success.
Trae Young is not playing at a Superstar Level
By regular standards, there has been nothing wrong with the way that Young is playing this season. He set a high standard for himself with the way that he played in the postseason. However, he is not playing up to that standard. Young has gone between not being aggressive enough on the offensive end and having some poor shot selection. He took some ill-advised shots at the end of the Hawks game last Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns and that was a part of why Atlanta blew the lead in the fourth quarter.
He has shown flashes of being one of the most dominant guards in the league in the last couple of games. However, he is going to have to bring that kind of effort every night. The shooting percentages should get better and Young is still one of the league’s premier passers, but there is going to have to be another level that is reached for Young if this team is going to be where the rest of the NBA thought they would be.
There is no bigger reason for the Hawks being the NBA’s most disappointing team than their defense. Chris Kirschner for the Athletic shared some stats that are not good for the Hawks. 27th in defensive rating, 23rd in net rating, 28th in rim defense, 28th in half-court defense, and 23rd in transition defense. That is not good at all. This has been one of the league’s worst defenses through the first month of the season and it must get better.
Some different reasons can be pointed to for the defense being this poor. First, Clint Capela is off to a terrible start to his season. He had a legitimate case to be on the All-Defensive teams last season. However, he has not been the same presence in the paint this season. One thing that has been noticeable is that Capela is being asked to switch more on defense. That is just not his strength. The Atlanta big man is dealing with an Achilles injury and the Hawks need him back to full strength. He is the centerpiece of the defense and the team is suffering without him being impactful.
The starting five as a whole is not playing good defense. That is going to have to improve at least to average. To make things worse, Atlanta is playing subpar on offense. That is not a good combination with a bad defense. This team still has talent and can get things turned around, but this has been a terrible start for a team that has such high expectations. Let’s see if the Hawks can bounce back and become contenders.
Follow Jackson Caudell on Twitter @jacksoncaudell
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images