What the first preseason game told us about the Atlanta Hawks offense

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 25: Kent Bazemore
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 25: Kent Bazemore /

With the preseason underway, what have we learned about what the Atlanta Hawks offense will look like this upcoming season?

On Sunday night, the Hawks lost to the Miami Heat 90-96 in their first of five preseason matchups. It was the fans’ first look at this rebuilding Hawks team. While the preseason is a time for teams to get back into the swing of things, it is also an opportunity for coaching staffs to implement their teams’ offensive and defensive identities. The Atlanta Hawks’ offense is no different.

So, while fans should not put much stock into what they see, there are some glimpses of what each team’s identity will be. What parts of Sunday’s game were sneak peeks into what the Atlanta Hawks might look like on the offensive side of the ball? Let’s take a look.

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The Hawks want to play very, very fast.

Clearly, there was an emphasis to get the ball up the floor quickly. The Hawks pace was just a hair under 104 possessions. For reference, that would have ranked 1st (fastest) in the NBA last season. The Hawks ranked 10th in pace last year at just a shade under 100 possessions.

Now, this is one game. We cannot put too much stock into this small of a sample size. But, even watching the game, there was clearly an emphasis to push the pace. Dennis Schröder started the game with an energy and urgency previously unseen getting the ball up the floor.

Watch how hard the Hawks first unit ran the floor on some of the first few possessions of the game. Schröder looked to pass up the wing often to get the offense into some early action.

There were numerous possessions outside of those above where the Hawks were making an effort to get the ball up the floor quickly. Although we have only seen one game, I think it’s safe to say that this will be something we see the Atlanta Hawks offense try to do consistently this season.

The Hawks are pushing their posts to the perimeter even more than we thought they would.

This does not necessarily come as a surprise. And, this is not a new idea of Mike Budenholzer coached teams. Post players like Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Babbitt, and Mike Muscala are good shooters and play well as pick-&-poppers. However, it was rare to find 2 post players inside the 3-point arc in the game Sunday.

It was easy to imagine an offensive system featuring one post in the painted area. But, this was even a step further. More times than not, the Hawks offense looked more like a 5-out with an occasional roller looming in the painted area.

Even when the Hawks played out of the post, it was most often the high post with some split-cut actions playing off of that.

What can we take from this? Spacing, spacing, spacing. This Hawks offense is going to feature spacing. That matches Schröder’s skillset and ability to get to the rim while maximizing the shooting on this roster.

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We will continue to look for offensive trends in this preseason. As you continue to watch, look for the pace of the Hawks and the degree to which they create space on the perimeter. While we do not have a full picture of a system, we can begin to see the frame for what the Hawks will be on the offensive end.