Archives For Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks (10-7) traveled to Minnesota (7-8) looking to build upon a strong win against Boston and exorcise demons from their earlier loss to the Timberwolves. They failed to do so in a 99-95 loss in Target Arena.

The T’Wolves bench accounted for 58 of their 99 point total. Minnesota was led by 13 points on just five shots from Damjan Rudez and Zach LaVine’s 18 points, six assist and five rebound night.

Reigning rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins was kept in check most of the night with an inefficient line of 15 points on 17 shots, but muscled up a bucket in the lane after taking body contact from Paul Millsap to put the Timberwolves up 98-94 with 1:24 left to go. The Hawks only netted one point in the final two minutes amid turnovers and bad shots, sealing the game for the home team.

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When it comes to confidence, there’s an age-old saying in sports: “never get to high, never get too low.” That’s something Mike Scott talked to me about last year when he was going through a rough shooting spell in December. Just keep on pushing. With the Atlanta Hawks, there certainly haven’t been any dramatically high points this season. No big low points either (unless you want to say the outlier that was the Minnesota game). Coach Mike Budenholzer preaches patience on offense. Finding the best look possible. Giving up a good shot for a great shot. That’s the Atlanta Hawks basketball we’ve become accustomed to over the past few seasons.

So what’s with the recent struggle? Sure, every team faces rough patches in their season – especially early on, right Houston? – which lead fans and pundits alike to ask questions. Skeptics have taken a look at this Hawks team and asked:

“Do they have what it takes to replace DeMarre Carroll?”

“Can the Hawks get over the hump that was in their way last season?”

“Are they regressing to the mean?”

To be completely honest, the offense has been largely unimpressive at times. The Hawks have displayed a lack of ball movement, spacing, and just a bumbling collection of careless mistakes and typical early-season errors. Going into that would take a chapter-book that will have to be illustrated another time.

But wait. It’s not like the offense is bad. We’re in the top 10 in the league with an offensive rating of 103.2 and putting up 101.4 points per game. I’m sure a bunch of teams would be thrilled to produce like the Hawks offensively.

I get the feeling watching these guys that they’re close to reaching their peak. Close, but not there yet. The ideals are there, the Bud system is there, but there are moving parts coming in this season that have forced adjustments. We’re treated to vintage Hawks basketball for a few minutes each game, such as the electric 2nd half against Minnesota (which is something the Hawks are capable of producing against any opponent), but there’s a sloppiness and lack of execution showing through the cracks.

We came into this season thinking that the Hawks would seamlessly adjust to the new roster additions and returning injured players. But some parts of the personnel adjustments this year have been like putting a square peg in a round hole. Other parts have worked better than I thought. And some have the potential to grow into prospering offensive weapons. Some of these examples include Kent Bazemore’s rise as a starter, my affinity for Lamar Patterson as a playmaker and basketball player, and, especially, the adjustments the offense with the addition of Tiago Splitter.

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The Atlanta Hawks returned to the place their breakout 2014-15 season ended and suffered a similar fate in a 109-97 loss. In front of a sellout Quicken Loans Arena crowd, Kevin Love led the Cavs with 25 points and 11 rebounds and LeBron James added 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Hawks only had one lead and were never really in the game past the opening minutes.

The big story was the ejection of coach Mike Budenholzer after just one technical foul. Coach Bud was giving Ben Taylor some words after Justin Holiday was hit in the face on a drive without a whistle, and he appeared to make contact with the fifth year referee, which would warrant the immediate ejection. After the game, coach Bud stated that he did not immediately realize he bumped Taylor and that the contact was unintentional.

Kenny Atkinson took over the coaching duties from there but there would be no emotional rally from Atlanta.

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While the start of Atlanta’s season has been fairly strong, stronger than last year’s 7-6 prelude to the franchise’s first 60 win season, there are a few notable areas for improvement. The most glaring of that group has to be rebounding, which helped foil the Hawks’ attempts to reach the NBA Finals just a few months ago and is currently foiling their endeavors to retain the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Most attribute the Hawks’ struggles in this area to a lack of size on the roster but it has become clear that most of the blame falls squarely on the overall scheme of the team. It matters less the stature of the players and more how hard the players crash the glass.

The below is a table of the Hawks’ rebounding performance in every year since coach Mike Budenholzer has taken the helm. I’ve listed the league finish in each rebounding percentage estimate via Basketball Reference.

OReb% DReb%
2013-14 28th 17th
2014-15 30th 22nd
2015-16 28th 29th

In fairness, in every year of Larry Drew’s tenure from 2010 to 2013 his teams finished in the bottom five of offensive rebounding percentage, but those teams were above average on the other end of the floor in each of those three seasons. The trend under the current regime is discouraging, nonetheless. Continue Reading…

The Hawks have jumped out to a 3-1 record in the first week, despite a barely positive point differential. Still, the team like many is attempting work new members into a fast-paced offense and a defense that has to counter a league-wide pace-and-space movement. Some growing pains are to be expected, and this stage of the season is the least predictive of overall performance.

With those qualifiers out of the way, an early story of this Hawks 2015-16 campaign is the strong play from a unit that was expected to be their weakest. I previously wrote about why rumors of the Hawks decline on the wings would be greatly overstated, at least defensively.

But who would have thought two guys perceived to be too small and not skilled enough to play big time minutes at this level would be the steadying force of the team thus far? We know the offensive talents Kyle Korver brings to the table and Thabo Sefolosha’s role on the team was etched in stone long ago as a long-armed defender, assuming full recovery from a NYPD-induced leg fracture.

That duo isn’t the two guys to which I’m alluding, however. Kent Bazemore and Lamar Patterson, please step forward.

Kent Bazemore profiles as a gazelle-like slasher with impressive hops, but jump shooting was never one of his biggest talents. After signing with Atlanta on a lean two year, $4 million deal, Baze responded with inconsistent but somewhat promising shooting performance last year.


Many thanks to Austin Clemens and his shot chart data for the above map. The size of the circles represents frequency of shot attempts and the colors range from red to blue, indicating high field goal percentages to low. Kent was most efficient in the right corner and the left wing, but at most other spots on the floor there is a lot of blue, especially in the midrange area. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks trailed the New Orleans Pelicans for most of the night, but took control of the game in the fourth quarter en route to a 103-93 preseason victory. Without the service of a TV broadcast and spotty radio coverage, the game seemed to take place in complete anonymity. Dennis Schröder led the Hawks with 11 points off the bench and Kent Bazemore added 10 behind a 6-for-7 night at the line. He also had four steals, but his overall defense was lacking along with most of the first team. The Pelicans jumped out to double digits leads by the second quarter as the Hawks starters looked a step slow on the two ends of the court.

Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague both struggled to find a rhythm. Teague attacked the basket too recklessly, drawing the attention of multiple defenders who would swallow him under the rim, and Korver couldn’t find enough open space to shoot. Still, both were able to draw enough fouls with their aggression to finish with a combined 14 points on 11 shots, seven of those points coming from the stripe.

For the Pelicans, Anthony Davis is looking to put together an MVP season in 2015-16 and did nothing tonight to assuage those illusions. He had 20 points on 15 shots, showing great range in nailing two 3 pointers, as well as five rebounds and three blocks. Over and over, Tyreke Evans was a step faster than the Hawks defense in compiling 17 points on 15 shots, but only had two assists versus four turnovers. Continue Reading…

The Hawks entered the offseason with a problem almost any team would gladly accept: too many players outperformed expectations. By virtue of signing Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll each to contracts two summers ago that were swiftly proved as club-favorable, the Hawks had a salary cap crunch in trying to re-sign them both.

The duo’s two year deals had both expired, removing the team’s use of Bird Rights that requires three years with the same team to shoot past the salary cap to re-sign free agents. Market value deals in free agency ballooned with the rising cap, as teams were suddenly flush with cap space to match their deep pockets as the result of an upcoming luxurious national TV deal for the league.

Given that DeMarre was both recovering from a knee injury and wholly justified in looking to cash in off his rapid ascent from fringe rotation player just two seasons prior, a team-friendly discount was out of the question. Carroll would quickly ink a 4 year, $60 million deal with the Toronto Raptors soon after the calendar turned to the 2015-16 NBA season on the heels of postseason averages of 14.6 points per game and 40.3 percent from three. This was all despite a sagging Hawks offense around him from March onward. Continue Reading…

The Hawks’ season is over. 60 wins and an Eastern Conference Finals berth are talk of the past now.

And that’s okay. For the first time in Atlanta Hawks history, they made it past the second round of the playoffs. The team had four All-Stars, the Coach of the Year, 60 wins, and an extremely fun, riveting season.

I remember the December 26th game against Milwaukee at Philips Arena, where the Hawks’ had a 5-game winning streak ended with a 30-point drubbing by the upstart Bucks. Jared Dudley went 10-for-10 from the field and the Hawks looked terrible on both ends of the floor.

But that’s not what struck me most from that game. What got me the most was the over 19,000 in attendance for that game.

Even if you are new to the Hawks, you probably know that they have not done well with attendance recently. Before this season, few games sold out. The games that did sell out were usually against high profile teams like the Lakers or Knicks that had several thousand of their own fans to cheer against the home team.

The uniqueness of the Hawks selling out against a usually low-profile team like the Bucks was not lost on me at the time. But with the Hawks getting shellacked by 30 points in front of such a large crowd, I had my doubts. “The Hawks blew it in front of the best crowd of the season,” were my sentiments at the time.

But a weird thing happened after that night. The Hawks kept winning. And the fans, who have been waiting 20 years for enjoyable basketball, kept coming back. The Hawks would got on to sell out nearly every remaining home game for the rest of the season, and climb out of the bottom 10 in attendance for the first time in years.

So with the 118-88 loss in Cleveland, the Hawks will head home for the summer. The fans will have to wait until autumn to get another taste of “Atlanta Hawks basketball”.

But for once, there’s a brighter looking future for Atlanta. The Hawks have a solid foundation of players, a solid staff, potentially new owners, and a fan base that is actually investing their time in the team.

The future looks fun.

HawksHoop has teamed with TiqIQ for a giveaway of two tickets to the April 10th game between the Hawks and the Hornets. See the graphic below to enter. You can also click on the “Hawks Tickets” tab in the nav-bar to see deals from TiqIQ for tickets to future Atlanta Hawks games.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It was announced last weekend that Mike Scott will miss 4-6 weeks (the remainder of the regular season, possibly into the beginning of the NBA playoffs) with a broken toe on his left foot. Thabo Sefolosha is close to returning from a calf strain that he suffered January 30th against Portland. The Hawks don’t plan on bringing back 10-day contract signee Jarell Eddie and instead have signed Austin Daye to the same short-term deal.

Coach Mike Budenholzer has been resting starters on a game-by-game basis, preparing for a run deep into the playoffs. They seem content on using the players they have and not any major outside help, as shown with the silent trade deadline last month.

But with all of this talk of injuries and sitting starters, don’t you still feel good about these Hawks?

Compared to last season, the Hawks are a completely different squad – except for the fact that they really aren’t. Sure, they signed Kent Bazemore and the aforementioned Sefolosha. Yeah, they’ve had time to gel and find more of a rhythm in Coach Bud’s offense. Sure, they are winning games at a much higher clip this season. But, the biggest change this season – something that seemed so great earlier on in the year – was the health.

Here they are, sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference on the ides of March and they have had only had one major injury to this Mike Scott announcement. Look at the rest of the conference – the rest of the league, for that matter – and you see key players going down.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were without LeBron for eight games at the turn of the new calendar year. Kevin Love has been in and out of the lineup with back issues. The Raptors missed DeMar DeRozan during the month of December. The Pistons lost Brandon Jennings for the season to an Achilles injury. Blake Griffin was out of the Clippers’ lineup for a little over a month. Wesley Matthews is no longer a factor for the Trail Blazers due to a season-ending torn Achilles. Paul George hasn’t played for the Pacers this season due to the gruesome leg injury suffered while playing for Team USA last summer.

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