The Atlanta Hawks are 8-4 and currently occupy the third seed in the Eastern Conference, though they are tied with the fourth-place Cleveland Cavaliers record-wise. Despite the strong start, there have been some questions about how things are being run, specifically, when it comes to head coach Nate McMillan.
Or at least, that appears to be the way the head coach perceived a question about trying different rotations in back-to-back situations.
McMillan says he’s not really entertaining such ideas.
“I’m not experimenting,” McMillan said in his postgame media availability. “I’m not experimenting, wanting to see different rotations. I’m trying to win that game. I’m not experimenting. I’m not developing. Doing all that. I’m trying to win games.”
Nate McMillan shuts down questions regarding Atlanta Hawks’ rotation
In one departure from convention, McMillan pulled Trae Young, who has been struggling with his shot, briefly in the first quarter while bringing on Aaron and Justin Holiday along with Onyeka Onkongwu. He also slid De’Andre Hunter in at the 4 with Jalen Johnson available to play but nursing an injury.
Other than that, the Hawks utilized their standard nine-man rotation with everyone seeing their usual minutes.
The 76ers did go on a 7-0 run during the two-minute stretch Young was on the bench. The Hawks went on an 11-0 run when he re-entered the game but that too was erased as he sat to begin the second quarter.
For McMillan, it was simply means to an end.
“I thought we needed some shooting,” McMillan said, “so we put AJ in the game. I thought we needed ball pressure tonight, so Aaron played more minutes tonight. I’m not experimenting with this roster and experimenting with the rotations…We’re trying to win games. We’re trying to put the best players out there and the guys that are going to give us the best chance to win.”
Rookie AJ Griffin saw 14 minutes — and did not enter until later in the second quarter — one game after surprisingly getting 10 minutes in the loss to the Utah Jazz.
It was surprising because he broke out with 24 points in 31 minutes one game before that.
Aaron Holiday had seen 20-plus minutes in three straight contests before also seeing 10 minutes in the loss to Utah. He bounced back with a 23-minute outing against Philadelphia finishing as a plus-15, the third-highest plus-minus on the team behind Young and Clint Capela.
But, this season, they have been better with Murray on and Young off than the other way around.
Both units are putting up negative differentials at the moment. But Murray-led groups are 10.1 points better than groups led by Young. That is not completely surprising – Murray has quickly become as vital to the offense as expected.
It is, however, one of the issues that this team was facing this summer when the blockbuster trade was made as it shifts Young into a less-familiar off-ball role.
Over one-quarter of his makes (25.3%) have come via assist; up from 16.9% last season.
Young is still scoring – 11th in the NBA at 27.5 PPG – and distributing the ball with 9.2 assists which are slightly over his career average. But his career-worst efficiency to this point is undoubtedly having an adverse effect on everything.
We’ll have to keep an eye on how McMillan utilizes the bench in this game to see if he returns to his usual rotation now that the Hawks are coming off a day of rest with another coming after.