Who Are The 2016 Atlanta Hawks?

Dec 23, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) guards Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Hawks won 109-108. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) guards Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Hawks won 109-108. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Hot starts, cold streaks, and great wins followed by bad losses. The 2016-17 Atlanta Hawks have been hard to identify. After 30 games, the team sits at 15-15. What team should fans expect going forward? 

Atlanta fans, feel free to admit it. After the 9-2 start to the season, this city thought they might have a real juggernaut in Phillips Arena. Then the next month happened. Close losses, blowouts, and poor play from the backcourt resulted in an excruciating combination of a three game and seven game losing streak, making the Hawks losers in 10 of 11 games.

As the entire franchise’s fanbase went into panic mode, the Atlanta Hawks have quietly gone 6-3 and worked their way back to a .500 record. A little more than one third of their season is finished, and the only thing fans know is that they’ve mastered the Jekyll and Hyde act.

Related Story: Grades From Win Over Denver

Dominant stretches and solid runs are equally matched with disappointing losses and depressing losing streaks. Looking at the evidence, can we find out who these Hawks are?


The Hawks, a team that won nine of its first eleven games, have been capable of impressive showings. There was the down to the wire win against the reigning champion (and fairly hated) Cleveland Cavaliers. A clutch win at Russell Westbrook‘s expense showcased Schroder and Millsap’s closing ability.

The oh-so-sweet revenge win against Toronto was another great win, especially after Dwight Howard dropped a nasty 27 points and 15 rebounds. While no one is in the business of “moral victories”, the Hawks even left it all on the court against the Golden State Warriors in a 105-100 loss.

More from Soaring Down South

The players involved in those wins have generally played well during the campaign. Excuse the following math.

Schroder is averaging 17.6 points and 6.3 assists per game with an above average PER (player efficiency rating) of 17.1, Paul Millsap puts in 17.6 points per game as well, along with 8.2 boards and 1.6 steals per contest.

Dwight Howard rounds out the squad’s best players with his own 13 rebounds and 14.2 points per game at 63.2 percent shooting. Those are good numbers, by the way. However, Atlanta’s record isn’t so good. That can be attributed to the Hawks Hyde to their Jekyll.


Here’s a little literary lesson for you readers. The phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” comes from the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s essentially about a skilled doctor who is bored with his uneventful, careful life and makes a concoction that turns him into the evil Mr. Hyde, which is generally more exciting. Of course, that had consequences. This Hawks team is also skilled, and are maybe just bored after making the playoffs for almost a decade straight. Their self debilitating potion seems to be a heavy dosage of turnovers.

Dec 19, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer reacts to a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

At one point averaging 20 giveaways a game, Atlanta has cut back and is “only” averaging 16 now (still 26th in the league). While teams that run pass heavy offenses tend to turn it over more, that’s still all kinds of bad. Good offenses like the Warriors can have trouble overcoming turnovers, but the Hawks have a mediocre attack that can’t afford to fork over free scoring opportunities to their opponents. It has already resulted in losses to the lowly Suns, Timberwolves, Lakers, and Magic.

This starting lineup is obviously still getting used to each other, as any casual fan can see. Bud’s system is at its best with continuity, and adding two new starters sets the system back a bit. There have definitely been several ugly games for a squad with playoff aspirations. Exhibit A being the Utah Jazz contest, and calling that game ugly is being polite. Running a more careful and efficient offense is the only way this team can fix these present issues.

“They Are Who They Say They Are”

Fans and pundits, like with any team, can sing the Hawks praises and call out their flaws. That’s only part of properly identifying a team. If Hawks fans want to know what they have, they should look at the whole picture. What they do have in front of them is a team that is 15-15, currently sitting at 6th in the Eastern Conference. At the moment, the Atlanta Hawks are in the playoffs. However, coming off 1st and 4th seeds the previous two years, this has been a disappointing unit.

They’ve shown the tendency to take on tough competition, but have also revealed a bad habit of not taking lesser teams seriously. Conversely, Schroder is beginning to look better than Jeff Teague ever did, Millsap is still Millsap, Howard has pulled in more rebounds than Al Horford could dream of, and the bench has been solid. Combine those factors together, and a skilled but average team is what you get. Which is exactly what a 15-15 record represents.

Fans shouldn’t expect any championship, those kind of expectations are at least a year off. However, this team can play with the best of them, but are equally vulnerable, which can be fun to watch.

Exhibit A:


Next: Dennis Schroder's Hot Streak