The Atlanta Hawks are eventually going to need elite scorers

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28: Dennis Schroder
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28: Dennis Schroder /

Every elite team in the NBA comes with an elite scorer. Most elite teams have at least two. For the Atlanta Hawks to rebuild the right way, they’ll have to develop some guys who can put the ball through the net consistently.

If there’s one aspect of the game Coach Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks can brag on its defense. For the past three seasons, the Hawks have ranked top 10 in opponents points per game. Since Coach Budenholzer’s arrival to Atlanta, they’ve held teams to an average of 100.45 points. In today’s high-scoring league that’s pretty spectacular. The Hawks have also averaged an impressive 8.7 steals during that 4-year span. Unfortunately, defense can only take a team so far.

If you take a look at the final four teams left in the playoffs this past season (Spurs, Warriors, Cavaliers, Celtics), you’ll notice one common stat. They all rank top 10 in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions). Three out of four of those teams ranked top 10 in points per game, except for the San Antonio Spurs. But that’s only because they play at such a slow pace.

The Atlanta Hawks haven’t come close to tasting an NBA Finals appearance due to their inconsistency on offense. They’ve averaged 101.5 points over the past five seasons. This is a middle of the pack offense in terms of purely putting up numbers each game. In fact, the Hawks have only been ranked in the top 10 of points per game once since the ’92-’93 season, and that one time was in the 2014-2015 season in which the Hawks went 60-22.

Atlanta Hawks
ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 22: Head coach Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks looks on during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

During that season, Coach Budenholzer did a phenomenal job at pushing a pass-first culture that sparked a high level of chemistry. The Hawks averaged 25.7 assists and ranked 2nd in the league in that category. To be honest, Atlanta has ranked top 10 in assists for six straight seasons. Sharing the ball is not the problem. The problem is, the Hawks haven’t had a high-volume scorer since Dominique Wilkens.

I know what you’re thinking, Joe Johnson was a high-volume scorer. No, he was not. Joe Johnson did average 25 points during the ’06-’07 season, and made it look fancy. But Johnson only averaged 20.2 points if you don’t count that season. So, Joe Johnson averaged 22.6 points as a Hawk. But what did the real scorers of that era look like?

There were a number of guys from that timespan that averaged more points than Joe Johnson; Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzski, etc.. Johnson made the top 10 scoring list in the ’07-’08 season. But it was the first and last time that happened for Johnson. There’s a huge difference between a good scorer and an elite scorer.

These days, guys like James Harden, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Kawhi Leonard are players that can take it to the hole at any given moment. The Hawks need players similar to these if they want to be taken seriously after this rebuild. Atlanta needs players that aren’t capable of being guarded 90% of the time.

The reason this is so important is because a team like Atlanta who shares the ball is dangerous if someone in their system has to be double teamed leaving someone wide open. Having a magnet out on the floor attracting so much attention, gives room for other players to score.

Dennis Schroder has shown signs of being a scorer, but hasn’t done it on a consistent basis. This upcoming season will be a massive test to see how well he can score the ball being that he is the leader of the franchise now. The Hawks have gotten younger, and they’ll need a more experienced player to carry a heavy load. Schroder is still young but, he does have a significant amount of experience compared to the new guys.

The Atlanta Hawks have one of the best developmental staffs in the league. But they haven’t shown they can develop a superstar, only all-stars. Who on this Hawks team looks like they have a knack for pouring in numbers at a high rate? This is a question the Atlanta Hawks staff, and fans will need to ask themselves this season.

Next: Alpha Kaba signs with French club ASVEL

If there’s any potential there, Atlanta should make their best attempt at nurturing it. Atlanta has a young core full of players who could possibly be the elite scorer the Hawks need in a few years, or maybe even sooner.

All Stats Obtained From