The problem with the Hawks last year wasn’t just that they weren’t getting to the line; they couldn’t make anything once they got there. The team was 26th in the league in both free throws per field goal attempt and free throw percentage.
Something welcoming has developed, though. Through three games this season, the Hawks are getting to the line at an average of 30.7 times per game, up from 19.7 last season. One problem stays the same, however; the Hawks are shooting 66% from the charity stripe, good enough for 27th in the league.
The biggest offenders? Well, Josh Smith may have left, but his replacement, Paul Millsap, is filling this void just perfectly. Millsap is shooting 47.4% from the line so far, which is extremely concerning considering that he’s getting to the line over ten times per game. That is a lot of points left on the board for Atlanta.
Al Horford hasn’t been much help in this area, missing half of his attempts through three games. While it’s great to see the Hawks get to the line so much, this amount of misses is eventually going to lead to losses, if you want to argue that it already hasn’t. (see: Lakers)
Tonight, the Hawks will take on the Kings in Sacramento, would should give Atlanta plenty of opportunities to remedy their free throw woes. The Kings do have some offensive firepower with DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, but what they offer on defense is… well, it’s not great. Teague, Millsap, and Horford will have plenty of chances to pound the ball instead, get some buckets, and hopefully, get to the line where they can actually convert.
This will also be a good game to see if the Hawks can get something cooking defensively. Converting to a new defense with a new coach and a lot of new players is hard, but the team needs to stop leaving shooters open in transition and off of the pick-and-roll. It still may take a while to get the defense completely going, but at some point, we need to see some improvement.
Tonight’s game starts at 10PM EST.