The Atlanta Hawks are a team in freefall. An 18-21 record and tenth-seed in the Eastern Conference somehow paints a rosier picture than what is actually transpiring. Two losses to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers (without Anthony Davis) within one week highlighted all that is going wrong for Atlanta.
On the heels of a vintage 47-point performance by LeBron James, Atlanta entered its west coast rematch in body only. By halftime of last night’s game, Los Angeles had essentially put the game away with a 70-49 lead at the break.
It is often unwise to make sweeping declarations from a small sample size, but Atlanta’s two losses to Los Angeles in one week demonstrate changes must be made to the coaching staff, roster, and front office.
It is only the first week of January, and Hawks head coach Nate McMillan is fighting for his job. Look no further than the old-school coach’s shallow rotations. Sure, McMillan is notorious for riding his starters.
But since December 1, only the Denver Nuggets have had a four-person lineup log more minutes than Atlanta’s starting five, minus Clint Capela. That is an impressive feat considering De’Andre Hunter has seven games during that time.
Everyone can nitpick rotation decisions. However, last night’s disaster class in defense is the latest reminder that Atlanta is getting out schemed on a nightly basis. Sometimes teams get hot, like the league’s worst outside shooting team did last night against Atlanta. Other times, they take advantage of what is given to them.
In last night’s game, Atlanta shot 45.8% from the field and 29% from the three-point line. The putrid offensive numbers underscore the fact that Atlanta has the most unhealthy shot diet in the NBA. In an apparent rebuke of analytics, Atlanta is consistently near the top of the league in midrange shots and scraping the floor in three-pointers and free throws.
But it’s hard to stretch the floor when few shooters are on the roster. Bogdan Bogdanovic and AJ Griffin are the only above-average shooters in the rotation, and they are both net-negative defenders.
When Clint Capela is out, which he has been for ten of the last 12 games, it has a compound effect of hurting Atlanta’s starting unit and bench. Atlanta’s depth and roster construction are deficient. Nothing short of an overhaul will propel this team into the postseason this spring.
Over the past few weeks, Atlanta has lost its team president, senior adviser, director of pro scouting, and vice president of player personnel. You read that correctly; Atlanta does not have a director of pro scouting in the middle of an NBA season.
Perhaps a scout could have helped craft a game plan for the ascendant play of Los Angeles’ journeymen Dennis Schroder and Thomas Bryant. Or maybe develop a scheme to contain James, who was without several key teammates last night.
There is no point in attempting to fill these front office positions in January. The wheels have come off, and every level of the organization is rudderless. New front office hirings and a full coaching search must wait until the offseason. However, a series of trades are required to limp into the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament.
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