The Atlanta Hawks in recent memory have been a fluctuating franchise to say the least. In the 1990’s, the Hawks had a true franchise player, Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins was truly a phenominal player, averaging 26.1 points a game during his 12 season run with Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Hawks, like most teams ran into one of the greatest dynasties the game has ever seen, the 1990’s Chicago Bulls. After the 90’s, the Hawks underwent a rebuild mode. They landed in the draft lottery for about 10 years, scoring at least top 5 picks for three years, 2005-2007 respectively.
Once the 2010’s, the Hawks had a true chance. Coming off of an amazing 62-20 season and having 4 of the 5 starters be selected to the all-star game, the dust was beginning to settle. Like the Hawks in the 90’s, they ran into another championship winning team, the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James. After that attempt failed, the Hawks headed back to the lottery. In 2017, the Hawks selected John Collins 17th overall. In the 2018, the Hawks selected Luka Doncic 3rd overall, but then traded him for the 5th overall pick, Trae Young. The team had a franchise point guard, who could shoot the lights out, similarly to Stephen Curry and a plethora of other shooters. Kevin Huerter, their 19th pick is a 3 and D type of player. Even their General Manager, Travis Schlenk, was the assistant GM for the Warriors for 14 years, dating back to the 2004-2005 season. With all of these items in place, the Atlanta Hawks are building similarly like the Warriors, however the outcome will not be the same.
Off Ball Movement
An NBA team can have a plethora of players that shoot the ball well. However, the type of shot, especially a three pointer is extremely important in today’s game. One of the most difficult to take is an off ball three pointer. During his two years, the Hawks have not been adamant about off ball movement with Trae Young. Much of Golden State’s has been predicated on the ability to move off of the ball. For example, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is one of the best off ball players in the league and has one of the best off ball players in the league in Thompson. He also happens to be one of the best three-point shooters in the league along with Steph. Just about every player on the Warriors can play off ball, especially Curry will go off ball and torch a defense with getting a good shot off of a screen. With how the Warriors preach off ball movement, not many teams can replicate the precision in moving off the ball. Many teams try to become the next Golden State, but the concept of off ball movement is a necessity to master in order to be classified with that team.
During the summer of 2018, former Hawks head Mike Budenholzer left the organization and headed to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hawks had an offensive guru in Budenholzer who got up and left. However, that same summer the organization hired Lloyd Pierce as their next head coach. Though he is no Budenholzer, Pierce has an offensive system similar to Bud, mainly focusing on the three point shot. Last season under Pierce, the Hawks shot even more three’s shooting about 36% of their total shots as three’s. However, there is one downfall with his offense. There are too many possessions where the ball ends up in an isolation, primarily with Trae Young. Isolation moves are not bad at all, but this move does not win championships. At times, the offense can look stagnant because of the focus of isolation ball. One of the main reasons why the Warriors are so good is because of their coaching style led by Steve Kerr. Kerr heavily emphasizes ball movement and making sure everyone touches the ball. Also, in Kerr’s offense, there are a variety of cuts, fades as well as inbound plays. Many of the little plays, like the cuts, fades and how well the player move without the ball determines how a team can become a dynasty. Due to the lack of these types of plays in the Hawks offense, the Hawks do not have that advanced of an offense to be on the tier like Golden State is.
Who do they compare too?
The Atlanta Hawks being compared to the Golden State Warriors is a lengthy reach. The Warriors are one of the best dynasties ever and while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is highly unlikely for a team to replicate that same success. A team that the Hawks do compare to though would be the early 7-second or less offense with the Phoenix Suns, led by head coach Mike D’Antoni and point guard Steve Nash. This offense had a fast paced tempo, and had a great point guard who could handle the ball and a big man who can roll to the basket and shoot. For the Suns, this was Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire who were one of the best pick and roll pairs of all time. Funny enough, the Atlanta Hawks have two players whose archetypes fit well with the two Suns legends. Trae Young is a phenomenal shooter who can orchestrate an offense with his ball handling and play-making abilities. The big man for Atlanta, John Collins can mimic much of what Stoudemire could do. Collins is a better three point shooter (35%), very athletic and can rebound the ball extremely well. Even though Atlanta will never become Golden State due to the coaching styles and how little off ball movement is displayed, the Hawks still have a bright future ahead of them.