The Atlanta Hawks aren’t as dominant of a team in 2015-16 as they were last year. One reason for this has been the ineffectiveness of the team from three.
While the Atlanta Hawks battled to keep their home loss with the Golden State Warriors close on Monday night, the team that went 60-22 en route to the Eastern Conference Finals only a year ago isn’t playing at an elite level in 2015-16. Atlanta will enter play Friday night versus the Chicago Bulls with a 31-27 record on the year.
Though the defense of the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks has been one of the best in the NBA this season, it has been a downtick in offensive efficiency that is causing the team to fall back into the middle of the pack in the East. A major point in this offensive slide for the team has been with its season-long inconsistencies from beyond the arc.
That’s right, three-point shooting has become a liability for the Atlanta Hawks, a team that only a year ago finished second in the league in shooting percentage from the outside at 38.0% clip. While only a 3.4% regression in three-point shooting percentage doesn’t seem like a huge discrepancy, the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks’ 34.6% shooting percentage from distance is a huge reason for Atlanta’s decline in offensive efficiency from last year.
Atlanta has fallen from sixth in the Association in 2014-15 at 108.9 points per 100 possessions to 18th at 104.8. The 4.1 point differential doesn’t feel like a huge drop off, but it is only worsened by increased pace and still poor offensive rebounding.
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Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer has gotten his players to pick up the tempo, moving from 15th in the NBA a year ago at 93.9 possessions per game to ninth in the league at 97.1 possessions. Again the discrepancy isn’t huge, but getting zero points instead of three points on a handful of possessions start to add up over the long run. Compliment that with the 29th-rated offensive rebounding team in the NBA and those missed three-point attempts turn into losing quarters and ultimately games.
With much of the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks roster being on that 60-win team a year ago, perhaps it isn’t personnel, but rather pace that is hurting the club offensively. While the pace is certainly amping up the intensity on the defensive end (no reason to knock that end of the floor, as the Hawks are seventh in opponents’ points per game at 100.3 and third in team defensive rating at 102.5 points per 100 possessions), perhaps the Atlanta Hawks need to play with more composure offensively instead of opting for a hurried transition three-pointer?
In all honesty, it is immensely difficult to have continued success at both ends of the floor. Being able to play well both on offense and defense tends to separate good from great teams in the Association. While the Atlanta Hawks are absolutely thriving in Mike Budenholzer’s defensive system despite not being even an average rebounding team, the team will need to play with more focus on the offensive to try to salvage the second half of their 2015-16 NBA season.
Even though the Atlanta Hawks aren’t winning at the ridiculous frequency from a year ago, this is still clearly a well-coached team and one can see it through their player development program. Nearly every player who has played for the Hawks in the Mike Budenholzer era has grown under his guidance in Atlanta.
However in the pace and space era of the NBA, it seems that the opposition has figured out that the Atlanta Hawks are still built offensively to live and die by the three-ball. If executed perfectly the three-pointer is the most efficient shot in the game, but should anything be out of sink in perimeter shooting, it can have ghastly consequences.
The best remedy for the Atlanta Hawks in the second half to get out of their slump is to relax a bit on offense, try not to force up a tough, uncontested three-pointer, and continue to play smash mouth defense on the other end of the floor. Slowing down the pace offensively could make the Atlanta Hawks an elite jump shooting team once again.