Atlanta Hawks Draft Guide Part 1: Defensive Backcourt Addition

DeAndre' Bembry #95 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeAndre' Bembry #95 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A quick peek at one of the most notable needs for the Atlanta Hawks heading into the offseason: Defense.

The Atlanta Hawks have an incredibly bright future. With a clean cap sheet, multiple incoming draft picks, a wealth of young talent as well as the internal development of players such as DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince, this team is set to make major noise over the course of the next few years.

It helps, of course, that the team drafted its best rookie in franchise history with Trae Young, who is already one of the best passers in the NBA. Beyond that, the Rookie of the Year race is far closer than it was to start the season – to the point that Luka Doncic and Trae Young should be named Co-Rookies of the Year.

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However, despite all of Trae’s brilliance, there is one area where he falls well short: On the defensive end of the court.

Even though Trae Young has the highest Offensive Player Impact Plus/Minus of any rookie this season (2.2 OPIPM) according to BBall Index, his Defensive PIPM is shockingly low (-3.3). That is just a wild swing from one end of the court to another.

Young grades out in BBall Index’s OPIPM as one of the 35 best offensive players in the entire league – ahead of notable stars such as Pascal Siakam, Al Horford, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Jimmy Butler and even his rookie “nemesis” Luka Doncic. However, his DPIPM is the second-lowest in BBall Index’s database ahead of only Devin Booker and even behind fellow rookie Collin Sexton.

With the Atlanta Hawks hemorrhaging points on the defensive end with Young out there, the team should prioritize a defense-first backcourt partner in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft.

Taking a gander at Cleaning the Glass’s lineup data, one finds that the Atlanta Hawks’ three best lineups by point differential (minimum 100 possessions) all feature third-year wing DeAndre’ Bembry playing at the two guard spot. To be fair, one of the lineups is the all-backups unit of Jaylen Adams, Bembry, Kent Bazemore, Vince Carter and Alex Len, but the point still holds.

The team’s best lineup, with a +9.3 point differential, leaves the starters intact but replaces Kevin Huerter with Bembry. While Red Pepper is terrific, Bembry is a more proven and sturdier switch-everything defensive Swiss Army knife.

What the Hawks truly need is a low-usage, two-way shooting guard that is comfortable playing off the ball – Klay Thompson being the ideal example. Certainly, that player archetype doesn’t grow on trees, but after a strong 2018 and 2017 draft from Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk, it seems likely that he can find a diamond in the rough in 2019 as well.

Next. Trae Young, Luka Doncic: Co-Rookies of the Year. dark

Keep it locked to Soaring Down South for plenty more Atlanta Hawks draft coverage, as we aim to make this “draft guide” a semi-regular column heading into June’s draft lottery. Thanks for reading!