Shelvin Mack: Should he be playing more minutes?


Shelvin Mack has played the third fewest minutes of any player on the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks. Should he be getting more time in Coach Mike Budenholzer’s rotation?

Normally I don’t like to criticize how Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer allocates minutes in his rotation, as he and his staff know way more about basketball than I likely ever will. However when looking at the minutes some of his players have played this season, I found it odd that veteran guard Shelvin Mack has only played in 92 minutes in 11 of the Atlanta Hawks’ first 32 games of 2015-16.

Only never-used guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. and rookie center Walter Tavares have had less playing time on the Atlanta bench. Mack is one of the team’s better ball handlers and isn’t a liability on either offense or defense (103 offensive/defensive ratings this season).

When I look at the 2015-16 rotation, Mack is the only player that is getting the short end of the stick with minutes. In year four in Atlanta, I would have thought that Coach Bud would have found a way to have its third primary ball handler on the floor more often. However that has not been the case.

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To understand why Mack isn’t playing, let’s take a closer look at Coach Bud’s rotation. The five starters Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford obviously play the most minutes of any of the 15 players currently on the Atlanta Hawks. The sixth man minutes clearly go to the team’s sixth man in Dennis Schroder.

The primary rotation includes Schroder, wing Thabo Sefolosha, and center Tiago Splitter, who along with the starters have the top eight minutes allocations on the team. Given what those three bench players mean to the team on both ends of the court, there are no complaints here.

Ahead of Shelvin Mack in the rotation are wing Lamar Patterson, forward Mike Scott, big man Mike Muscala, and win Justin Holiday. Scott’s great shooting season has forced him back into being the team’s fourth big over Muscala. Scott is a defensive liability (109 DRTG), but his offensive game is the most efficient on the team (117 ORTG).

What hurts Shelvin Mack with regards to minutes this season are three-fold:

1. He is the sixth man’s backup. Minutes are even less when backing up the first man off the bench as he will average nearly starter’s minutes. It’s hard to take the ball out of either Jeff Teague or Dennis Schroder’s hands in the Atlanta backcourt.

2. Shelvin Mack doesn’t have a high ceiling. Coach Bud knows what Mack’s limitations are as a player. Outside of the annual or biennial game where he will get scorching hot on offense, Mack isn’t the type of point guard that can carry the offense. He’s a great facilitator and plays solid defense, but he’s not going to ignite the team if they are down big from the point guard position.

3. Coach Bud doesn’t know what he has in Lamar Patterson, Justin Holiday, or Tim Hardaway, Jr., as all are in their first year with the Atlanta Hawks. Though Mack doesn’t play out on the wing like the other three, I believe that these are where his minutes are going, especially to Patterson.

Patterson spent 2014-15 playing overseas while the Atlanta Hawks had his draft rights from the year before. He is getting the ninth most minutes of any player on the team this season. It seems as if Coach Bud is trying to see if he can become the next Kent Bazemore out on the wing.

The problem with that is his advanced metrics aren’t indicating that he is getting the job done with his higher minute allocation. Patterson has a 92 offensive rating and a 107 defensive rating. While I get that being indoctrinated in Bud’s wing defensive philosophies can seem brutal at times, Patterson does have the worst field goal percentage (.354) of any player in the regular rotation.

Two backcourt lineups that could use Shelvin Mack is have him at point guard with either Jeff Teague or Kyle Korver at shooting guard or put Mack at the two and have either Teague or Dennis Schroder at the point. Atlanta may lose some tenacity on the glass with Mack out there, but will have better ball security on offense with him on the court.

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I’m not advocating that Shelvin Mack needs to regularly be a part of the Atlanta Hawks’ rotation, but I’m surprised to see him not even play 100 minutes in the first 32 games of the 2015-16 NBA season. He’s an 11th man getting 13th man type of minutes. Mack dresses out every game, so he’s clearly ready to play, waiting to make the most of his limited opportunities when Bud calls his number.