The Atlanta Hawks desperately need another go-to scoring option

Jan 15, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) passes the ball against the New York Knicks in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) passes the ball against the New York Knicks in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the things we hoped the Atlanta Hawks (17-25) would address during the offseason was finding a secondary playmaker. 42 games into the season and, after thinking they had done enough to reinforce this, it is clear we need to take it a step further. The Hawks are in desperate need of a secondary go-to scorer, particularly in clutch situations.

At first, the issue seemed to simply be losing momentum when Trae Young sat. But their last two losses have showcased just how Young-centric they become and how little benefit it is providing.

On the season, the Hawks have played in just 16 “clutch” games, defined as any game within five points or less with five minutes or less remaining.

That’s 29th in the NBA but, unfortunately, they are just 6-10 in those games.

The Atlanta Hawks will continue to struggle until they get another legit scorer

The Hawks rank 25th averaging 6.6 points in the clutch. They’re 28th shooting 38.5 percent from the floor and a miserable 16.1 percent from three, second-worst better than only the young Cleveland Cavaliers. Atlanta is 27th in clutch assists with fewer than 1.0 per game and their 1.1 turnovers are tied with the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, and Minnesota Timberwolves for 25th in the Association.

A big reason why they struggle so much is that they are a one-man band down the stretch of games.

Ranking 25th in fourth-quarter scoring overall on the season, the Hawks see Young’s 33.9 percent usage rate in the frame – fourth-highest in the league among players to appear in at least 20 games – skyrocket to 46.9 percent in clutch game situations.

That is the highest mark of any player with at least 10 clutch games played.

He is 15th in clutch scoring with 3.2 points per outing but his efficiency plummets. Posting career-highs of 45.4 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent from beyond the arc, and 89.8 percent at the free-throw line, Young is slashing .427/.262/.883 in the fourth quarter.

His efficiency from the floor bottoms out in the clutch with Young shooting 37.1 percent overall and going 1-of-9 (11.1%) from three.

Young’s 80.6 offensive rating ranks 182nd out of 186 qualifiers. Only Clint Capela has been worse on the Hawks at 78.1 but his effective field goal percentage of 80.0 percent is worlds better than Young’s 38.6 percent in the clutch. A notoriously poor defender, Young has a minus-39.4 net rating.

Of the four other Hawks to meet our criteria, Danilo Gallinari (100.0) and Kevin Huerter (90.1) have been the best but they have been sieves on the defensive end.

John Collins comes in just above Young at 84.3 percent but his 36.4 effective field goal percentage and 39.2 true shooting percentage on just a 12.8 percent usage rate is far worse than his point guard.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was supposed to be that option.

He’s second on the team with 2.5 points per in clutch games shooting 60 percent from the floor and 50 percent from outside. But he’s played in just six such games and his defense has also been worse this year with his defensive rating rising (bad) from 111.0 last season to 114.8 this year.

Defense is kind of important when sharing the floor with Young.

His offensive rating has fallen as well, leaving him as a net-negative overall and in the clutch and he gets his own shot just 66.7 percent of the time. That’s worse than Huerter (75%) and far off many secondary options on other teams.

He joins Young as one of just 17 players (out of 72 total) with a usage rate of at least 24 percent and a sub-100 offensive rating.

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The Hawks rank second in unassisted field goals in the clutch but this isn’t a volume issue, not for the team. This is a personnel issue and it’s clearer than ever that the Hawks have no counterpunch when Young is heavily guarded late in games.

Saturday against the Knicks won’t count as a clutch game – New York led by six points at the five-minute mark. But the Hawks went 5-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-9 from three down the stretch with Young going 3-of-5 and 1-for-3, respectively. New York was 6-of-9 overall and 2-of-4 from three.

Against Miami on Friday, the Hawks shot 25.0 percent from the floor and went 0-for-3 from distance while the Heat shot 50.0 percent overall and went 2-for-2 from downtown.

Their defense undoubtedly has to improve dramatically.

But the Hawks would be in a much different position if they could figure out how to close out tight games. Said Young after the latest loss via Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “we’ve just got to figure out how to win again”.

It would serve them well to identify another go-to option down the stretch. Is it Bogdanovic when he’s healthy? Huerter?

Next. Which players should the Hawks look to move on from next?. dark

Or will they have to make another trade, either before the deadline or this offseason, to solve this issue?