When former Atlanta Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk took the reigns and immediately committed to building around Trae Young, many Hawks fans assumed that Atlanta was attempting to model itself in the image of Schlenk’s dynastic Warriors.
Fast forward a few years and it has become clear that Young is not a Steph Curry reincarnation, Kevin Huerter did not turn out to be Klay Thompson 2.0, and Atlanta fans now have a higher degree of appreciation for just how rare and, perhaps lucky, Golden State was to establish their nearly decade-long reign.
What Atlanta does have is a player in Young who, despite his physical limitations and occasional stubbornness, is still one of the three best passers in the world and that, when he’s got it going, has a certain level of offensive electricity that few other players can reach.
This makes his backcourt fit with Dejounte Murray, another ball-dominant guard, pretty awkward. There was little in the pairing’s first year together that would encourage anyone to think they could reach a level where they truly bring out the best in each other, and there’s probably a reason for that: it has been extremely rare throughout NBA history that a backcourt with two ball-dominant guards has produced championship-caliber results.
But since Atlanta finds itself in this position and likely won’t be moving on from either Young or Murray anytime soon, they might as well attempt to model themselves after the team built similarly to them that reached the highest degree of success in recent memory, which was the 2017-18 Houston Rockets, a 65 win team that pushed the greatest team ever, the Kevin Durant Warriors, to 7 games in the Western Conference Finals.
That Houston team featured James Harden and Chris Paul, two ball-dominant guards to be sure, in the backcourt. So what made them so successful?
The first and most obvious reason was that, while that Rockets team wasn’t the first ball club to emphasize three-point shooting, they took it to a whole new level, putting up 42.3 three-point shots a night, then far and away an NBA record. And they shot them well, too, connecting on over 36% of attempts from the Land Beyond.
Can Quin Snyder change the Atlanta Hawks’ shot profile?
That approach is the polar opposite of where the Hawks operated this season, as Atlanta ranked dead last in the NBA in three-point attempts at 30.6. Presumably, the new head coach and noted offensive mind Quin Snyder will amend this and encourage his team to ramp up the threes going forward.
However, three-pointers are only valuable if they’re going in (which Houston found out in real-time as they missed 27 straight with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line), which is why Atlanta must have players who can knock them down. John Collins, for example, shot only 29.2 percent from outside this season, which simply isn’t going to cut it.