After advancing to the Conference Finals last year, the Atlanta Hawks around superstar Trae Young had to pack their bags after the first round this season. What was different this season – and why could Atlanta be a prime candidate for a big trade?
Why couldn’t the Hawks repeat last season’s success?
Two things happened. On the one hand, the East was much stronger across the board this season, on the other hand, the Hawks completely missed the start of the season and dug a hole (17-25 in the first 42 games) from which they managed to Finally couldn’t crawl out anymore.
Trae Young complained early on about the monotony of the regular season, but in January there was a big bang when GM Travis Schlenk launched an all-out attack in a radio interview. “Nobody feels responsible for giving everything on defense,” Schlenk said at the time. “If someone scores against you, then it just goes on on the other side. It just doesn’t bother anyone here.”
Things got a little better after that incendiary speech, but even the second-best offense in the NBA is worthless when the defense is fifth-worst. In the previous season, the strong Clint Capela covered many weaknesses at the back end of the field, but this season the Swiss struggled with Achilles tendon problems and was unable to reach his old level.
Injuries were a common thread throughout the season anyway. De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter missed a total of exactly 100 games, probably the best lineup of Young, Bogdanovic, Hunter, Collins and Capela was only on the field in 16 games.
Heat vs. Hawks: The series at a glance
|1||17. April||19 o’clock||Miami Heat||Atlanta Hawks||115:91|
|2||20. April||1:30||Miami Heat||Atlanta Hawks||115:105|
|3||23. April||1 O ‘clock||Atlanta Hawks||Miami Heat||111:110|
|4||25. April||1 O ‘clock||Atlanta Hawks||Miami Heat||83:110|
|5||27. April||1 O ‘clock||Miami Heat||Atlanta Hawks||97:94|
Even in the series against Miami, Bogey and Capela were missing here and there, which Atlanta could not compensate for. Ultimately, it was never a close run because Miami’s defense put Young on the chain, taking Atlanta’s primary weapon. An offensive rating of 104.1 (in the RS it was 115.4) means 15th place in the postseason, only the Chicago Bulls are worse.
Overall, Miami was a poor matchup for the Hawks, but Atlanta took it upon themselves after a poor start. The run into the Conference Finals last year was strong, but the quality of the opponents also left a lot to be desired. The Knicks were offensively limited, the Sixers imploded for a variety of reasons, not least in Game 7 and the Ben Simmons saga that followed.
That shouldn’t belittle the Hawks’ success, but Young and Co. are more likely to be located between the conference finals and gentleman’s sweep in round one. Ergo not a real contender, but a candidate for a direct playoff place.