Shelvin Mack didn’t come into the 2013-14 season as a surefire second string point guard, but it certainly ended with him being one. Mack showed some good signs in his 20 games as a Hawk late last season after being picked up as a free agent, but seemingly held the third string position coming into this year with Atlanta’s drafting of import Dennis Schroder. The rookie struggled with transitioning to the NBA game, allowing Mack to step in and cement his role on the team. After five DNP-CD’s in the year’s first nine games, Mack went on to average 20.4 minutes over 73 games.
With all of Jeff Teague’s inconsistency this year, it was always a breath of fresh air whenever Mack checked into the game. Not because he’s a better player, but he’s one that you can expect to bring relatively the same thing every night out. It also doesn’t hurt that what he brought was solid shooting, few giveaways and the ability to play system defense.
The increase in playing time was quickly justified, as throughout the season Mack was as steady and reliable a backup as one could hope for. He ranked tenth among qualified point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio, as good a descriptor as any for his stability with the rock. Almost 30% of his possessions ended in an assist, a huge mark that’s a testament to his ability to a run an offense. Mack was rarely out of control with the ball in his hands, only forcing shots when the entirety of the team’s was stagnant or the shot clock was running down.
On your average play ending in a Mack field goal attempt, drawn shooting foul or turnover, Mack will either be in the pick-and-roll or spotting up 50% of the time per Synergy Sports. Mack had an eFG% of 55.1 on catch-and-shoot attempts, with a number of these looks possible because of Mack’s ability to play in a two point guard lineup. Mack spent 46% of his floor time this season with either Jeff Teague or Dennis Schroder beside him.
Mack’s no slouch on the defensive end, either. He doesn’t come away with a great deal of steals – just 1.2 per-36 minutes – but he plays within the system and puts in the right amount of effort. His on/off numbers won’t reflect this, because of how little time Mack spent with Atlanta’s best interior defenders. The player Mack spent the most amount of time on court with this season was Mike Scott, who did little to prevent the opposition from scoring. Mack also made his mark on the defensive glass, grabbing 3.4 defensive boards a game. This number may not seem like much, but Mack’s defensive rebounding rate ranks him 20th among qualified point guards.
Come the NBA Playoffs and the top-notch Indiana Pacers defense, Mack once again stepped up his game. Among Hawks that played at least 100 minutes in their first round loss to Indy, Mack ranked second on the team in NetRTG when on the hardwood. The Hawks scored a whopping 13.2 more points per 100 possessions with Mack on the floor, and it’s no surprise why when you dive into his individual numbers. Atlanta’s strategy in this series was to shoot the lights out from deep, and Mack took this to heart, shooting over 8 threes per-36 minutes of action. Mack connected on 37% of his tries, registering a PER of 19.2 while capitalizing on every other aspect of his game. 45.1% of Mack’s possessions ended in an assist, just 10.3% of them resulted in a turnover, making for an assist/TO ratio of 4.1 against the league’s best defense. On the series, Mack’s per-36 stat-line read out: 17.4 points, 7.6 assists and 4 rebounds. Yes, this was mostly against the lacking Pacers bench. But that’s exactly what you’d want our of your second string point guard if not more.
This summer, Mack will be facing restricted free agency. He seemingly loves Atlanta – “Yes. Of course [I want to be back]. I feel like it’s a great situation for me. The teammates are great. I just had a lot of fun.” – and the point guard crop is so thick perhaps the Hawks can get away with re-upping Mack for less than he’s probably worth. Although it’s not outlandish to suggest Atlanta may already be looking at Schroder to step in to a bigger role next year, having to go through the injury troubles they did in the 2013-14 season, I think it would be silly not to bring Shelvin Mack back. He’s only 25 years old, so even if he isn’t adding much to his game at this point, he isn’t declining either. He can play both guard positions and is a steady presence off the bench that won’t throw many surprises your way on the court. It’s safe to say Hawks fans as a whole are looking forward to the return of the Mack.