Atlanta Hawks urged to fix glaring weakness with trade

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks have gotten off to a solid start sitting tied with the Boston Celtics at 6-3 but sitting just one spot behind them ranking sixth in the Eastern Conference. They are coming off of a thrilling 124-121 overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans in a game that saw Dejounte Murray record his first triple-double in a Hawks uniform.

There were other strong performances as well.

Star point guard Trae Young tallied 34 points and 10 assists while big man Clint Capela went off for 21 points and 19 rebounds.

One thing the Hawks did not do so well? Defend down the stretch as they allowed New Orleans to erase a 13-point lead and there is some thought that was not an aberration but rather a troubling trend.

Analyst suggests Atlanta Hawks pursue trade for point-of-attack defense

“Getting Murray in a trade from the San Antonio Spurs helps,” argues Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, “but the Hawks should still be exploring trades for defensive-minded guards and wings throughout the season.”

The Hawks sent a plethora of picks to the Spurs for Murray in a deal that was panned by some rival executives for the lofty package.

Then the Minnesota Timberwolves sent the farm to the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gobert.

That left the discussion surrounding the Murray deal to on-court fit. So far, so good as the Hawks currently boast a plus-13.9 net rating (93rd percentile) when the Murray-Young combo has been on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass.

But, Swartz’s issue is with some of the cracks that show when you zoom out. The Hawks have a 113 defensive rating, ranking in the 17th percentile.

Their plus-113.7 offensive rating narrowly gives them a positive differential.

“While Murray has been terrific, more work needs to be done around Trae Young. The Hawks… are still struggling to contain dribble penetration. Atlanta ranks in the 13th percentile in pick-and-roll defense and is giving up more points per game to initiators (24.4) than any team in the NBA.”

Outside of Murray, the Hawks have Young and Aaron Holiday at guard. Neither are defensive stoppers.

The Hawks’ next best defenders – De’Andre Hunter and Justin Holiday – are wing defenders.

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This does create an interesting question of how the Hawks plan to address the issue. Murray was already brought in to help hide Young defensively but he has been their best defender in the pick-and-roll statistically allowing just 0.77 points per possession.

Hunter (0.80 PPP allowed) is right there but Murray (0.91 PPP) and Aaron Holiday (0.94 PPP) have been taken advantage of.

Justin Holiday and John Collins are allowing over 1.0 PPP on pick-and-rolls on low volume.

Perhaps it would be wise for the Hawks to take a look at some options on the trade market – perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers would part with Lonnie Walker IV.

But it doesn’t feel as though they are anywhere close to tinkering too much further with this current group. At some point, chemistry has to be a significant factor and that point could be now for a Hawks group that came together over the summer.

That this is still so new cannot be dismissed either.

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There is plenty of reason to believe that they will look even better defensively once they build even better cohesion on that side of the floor.