One of this season’s lingering questions was brought to the surface again on Friday. And that question is: What the heck has happened to the Atlanta Hawks?
In the wake of getting drubbed by the Miami Heat, the Hawks stand at 39-30. On first glance, they’re pretty firmly entrenched in fifth place in the East, four games in the loss column behind the Orlando Magic and three games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers. But the way they Hawks are playing, nothing but a quick first-round exit is guaranteed.
The Hawks are nine games over .500, but they’ve outscored their opponents by only three points this season, because Friday was not the first time they’ve been blown out. Six times they’ve lost by more than 20 points.
When Larry Drew took over for the fired Mike Woodson last summer, he promised to bring more ball movement to the Hawks’ offense. That sounded great to those that grew tired of Iso-Joe, but some wondered why Drew would mess with a good thing. The Hawks ranked third in the league offensively last season, scoring an efficient 108.9 points per 100 possessions. Iso-Joe may have looked ugly at times, and Atlanta may have ranked 16th in assist rate. But overall, Woodson’s offense worked for the Hawks.
Well, it looks now like Drew made a mistake. The Hawks rank 21st in the league offensively this season, scoring just 103.2 points per 100 possessions. They have Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford, and they’ve been worse offensively than the Pistons (103.9, 18th) and Raptors (103.5, 20th). They’re assisting on a higher percentage of their shots (ranking fourth in assist rate), but that doesn’t mean anything when they’re not getting as many shots at the basket.
The only two teams that have regressed more offensively from last season are the Cavs and Suns, who each lost an All-Star to free agency.
Most regressed, offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions)
The Hawks aren’t shooting much worse than they were last season, but they’re grabbing far less offensive boards, turning the ball over more often, and getting to the line less.
Atlanta offensive comparison
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5*3PM))/FGA
OReb% = Off. Reb./(Off. Reb. + Opp. Def. Reb.)
TORatio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
And things have become worse for the Hawks since the All-Star break. They’re 5-9 with the third worst offense in the league in that time (only Charlotte and Washington have been worse), scoring a miserable 98.1 points per 100 possessions.
It’s not time for complete panic in Atlanta, because all nine of those losses have come against teams with winning records: L.A. Lakers (2), Phoenix, Denver (2), Oklahoma City, New York, Chicago and Miami. And three of the five wins (two against Portland and one against the Bulls) can be considered quality.
Still, with how anemic their offense has been, it’s hard to believe the Hawks can win more than a game or two in the playoffs, especially if they slip to the sixth or seventh spot in the East and face one of the conference’s big three in the first round.