The Atlanta Hawks currently have a record of 3-5 and have lost four of their last five games. They have a young, talented core, but have not played their best basketball yet. Making the situation worse, John Collins was suspended for 25 games. Collins is one of the best young players in the game and a huge part of the Hawks offense.
Atlanta Hawks Offensive Concerns
The Hawks offense has sputtered, to say the least. In three of their last five games, they have scored less than 100 points. For some teams, that means nothing, but for the Hawks, a porous defensive team, that means everything.
The offense seems stagnant now. Everything goes through Trae Young and he is carrying the weight of the team too often, due to a lack of playmaking on the court. Part of this is due to the two rookies, Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter, starting. Rookies always take some time to adjust. The difference in what is a good shot in college and the NBA is also staggering and takes some getting used to.
Unfortunately, Reddish has had a hard time getting acclimated. He has played with the ball in his hands, specifically as the starting point guard in games that Young missed. Nothing about Reddish screams playmaker. He was a great scorer in high school and will be in the NBA, but he has a hard time making plays for others.
Hunter has been an inconsistent scorer but typically has a positive impact any time he is on the floor. The Hawks are extremely high on him and think he can develop into a superstar over time.
Trae Young has been scoring at a high level and Jabari Parker has added a scoring punch off the bench. Other than these two, it is a true mystery as to where the scoring will come from. They really do not have anyone they can throw the ball to and ask to score consistently.
Who is the Answer?
It is time for Kevin Huerter to break back into the starting lineup. Huerter missed all of the preseason with Enthesitis of the right knee, which is essentially just pain from overuse of the joint. It was expected that he would be plugged into the starting lineup as soon as he was healthy, but that has not happened.
Huerter brings a much-needed playmaking ability, along with a great shot. He has not found his rhythm yet with his jumper but did score a season-high 17 with four threes in his last game. Ultimately, he is the perfect partner for Young in the backcourt.
There is no way around it, the Hawks are just better with Huerter on the floor. As a 6’7″ two-guard, he is a tough matchup and his shooting ability spreads the floor for Young to penetrate and use the pick and roll. Ultimately, he was All-Rookie Second Team for a reason.
Atlanta Hawks Defense
If the Hawks want to reach their goal of making the playoffs the defense needs to improve. It has certainly been better than last year, but it still needs work. Unfortunately, Young is a liability on the defensive end and there is no true rim protector.
The key to the defense will be DeAndre’ Bembry. Bembry is a lockdown defender and is always around the ball. Down the stretch, Bembry will always be involved because the Hawks cannot replace his defense.
In terms of rim protection, Damion Jones or Bruno Fernando will need to step up. Currently, Alex Len is starting at center, but he has been poor at best. He starts for his offensive ability and shotmaking, but neither has been evident this year. It is time to make the switch the Jones and limit Len’s minutes.
Atlanta Hawks Season Outlook
Without John Collins, the playoff hope seems dim. There is a sliver of hope because the Eastern Conference is relatively weak, but the Hawks need to find a way to get to .500. This will not be possible unless Huerter enters the starting lineup and takes some minutes from Reddish. The best chance the Hawks have to win is using Huerter and Young 30 plus minutes a game every night.
Not many people thought the Hawks had a chance this year. They have been characterized as being a year away. Ultimately, another year of development for Young, Huerter, Reddish, and Hunter is exactly what the doctor ordered. The Hawks have two max contract slots next year which could be intriguing for a star player.