Coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks had high hopes entering the 2021-22 season with a healthy roster and renewed expectations.
Through the first couple weeks, it’s been nothing close to what they expected, sitting at 4-8 on the season after their 110-98 loss to the Utah Jazz.
With five-consecutive losses, here are four stats that paint a tough picture of their start to the season.
7: Struggles on the road
Eight of the Hawks’ first 12 games this season have come away from State Farm Arena, and they’ve really struggled to find any rhythm on the road, now sitting at 1-7 on the season.
Their lone road win came against the lowly New Orleans Pelicans, who have been missing star forward Zion Williamson for the entire year. It won’t get much easier for Atlanta after losses to the Warriors and Jazz, as it now travels to Denver to take on the Nuggets.
It hasn’t helped that the Hawks had to face the 76ers, Wizards, Nets, Suns, Warriors and Jazz all on the road early in the season.
111.5: Defence has plenty of work to do
The Hawks aren’t going to clamp you down, but they have enough serviceable defenders to protect the paint and athletic wing players to contest shots. But they’re not doing a whole lot of either so far this season.
Their defense currently ranks 27th in the league, giving up 111.5 points per 100 possessions. Only the Grizzlies, Pelicans and Hornets have a worse defense this season.
Clint Capela is still working his way back after recovering from an Achillies issue in the offseason that limited his minutes through the first week of the season. Once he is back to full flight, the Hawks defense should come along.
While they need help at the rim, they had no answer for Steph Curry this week, who dropped a 50-piece on them in the Bay.
Not getting to the line
The most glaring part of the Hawks’ early offensive struggles has been their lack of free throw shooting.
After the All-Star break last season, they were fourth in free throws made (18.5) and seventh in attempts (23.1) and this season, that number has plummeted.
Through 12 games they’re making just 15.1 free throws on 18.7 attempts per game, with point guard Trae Young experiencing a significant drop-off, with his free throws averaging falling from 8.7 attempts per game last season to 5.3 in 2021-22.
A combination of teams anticipating Young’s moves and the new rules, which work against players like Young and James Harden, who are pros at looking for contact, have seen the Hawks star staring at officials in search of a whistle.
“I don’t want to get fined too much, but it’s frustrating,” Young said last month.
“There’s a lot of missed calls. It’s basketball. It’s just, it feels that they’re learning, and they’re just — I don’t know. It’s frustrating.”
12: Is the rotation too deep?
One of the Hawks’ biggest strengths last season was the fact that they had so much depth at multiple positions that they were able to cover any injury issues… but what about when everyone is healthy?
During preseason, finding chemistry proved difficult with so many guys out, but at present, Nate McMillan has 12 players that are averaging at least 10 minutes per game and seven different players north of 20-plus minutes a night.
DeAndre Hunter, who missed most of the playoffs last season, has been huge for them this season, playing nearly 30 minutes a night, while Cam Reddish’s continued improvement has, at times, forced Kevin Huerter to the bench. Throw in Delon Wright and Gorgui Dieng adding to their bench depth and rookie Sharife Cooper barely seeing the floor, the Hawks have a ton of players fighting for rotation minutes that just aren’t there.
As they manage the roster between developing and trying to win, the front office may have to make some big decisions regarding their veterans as their young talent continues to blossom.
Luckily for the Hawks, after their trip to Denver, they’ll return to State Farm Arena for a five-game homestand.
They’ve turned their home arena into a fortress this season (3-1) and have a string of winnable games against the shorthanded Bucks, Magic, Celtics, Hornets and Thunder.
Things are looking rough for Atlanta at the moment, but the schedule hasn’t done them any favors so far. Let’s check back in after this five-game run and we’ll know a lot more about where they actually stand.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.
Sporting News RSS