Atlanta Hawks make groundbreaking coaching hire

Quin Snyder, Atlanta Hawks. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Quin Snyder, Atlanta Hawks. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images /

On Monday, the Atlanta Hawks made franchise history when they hired Brittni Donaldson to join Quin Snyder’s coaching staff, per Jeff Schultz of The Athletic.

Donaldson becomes the first female coach in Hawks history, and her focus will be on analytics.

Donaldson has previous experience working for the analytics department with the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, helping the Raptors on their way to their 2019 NBA championship run.

She is a former college basketball player for the Northern Iowa Panthers and studied statistics during her time there, opening the door for her career in analytics on various NBA staffs and front offices.

Donaldson is also the founder of Strata Athletics basketball camps, which operate in the Austin, Texas area, per Schultz.

It certainly makes sense that the Atlanta Hawks would want to bolster their analytics department this offseason considering the direction of the franchise. Quin Snyder, who took over for Nate McMillan about two-thirds of the way through the 2022-23 season, is a noted offensive mind in the NBA and has always been on the cutting edge of the analytics movement.

Snyder’s 2021 Utah Jazz, who finished with the best record in the NBA that year, led the league in three-pointers attempted by a country mile at an astonishing rate of 43 attempts per game, which his team converted a very respectable 38.9% of the time. At a time when the NBA is collectively launching more attempts than ever from beyond the arc, Snyder has taken that philosophy to another level, one matched perhaps only by former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, and the results have largely been fruitful.

This philosophy will take some getting used to for the Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were among the league’s cellar-dwellers this year in three-point attempts at 30.5 a game. Point guard Trae Young recently discussed this change in offensive approach on his “From the Point” podcast, which debuted last week.

“I’m going to focus a lot more on shooting threes,” Young said. “…[Coach Snyder] likes us shooting a lot more threes.”

While an increased volume of three-point shots will certainly benefit the Hawks when compared to the barrage of contested mid-range jumpers they assaulted the State Farm Arena rims with throughout much of this season, it will be important that Snyder, Young, and company don’t become over-reliant on a shot that is still, after all, the farthest shot from the basket available.

We recently watched what happened to the Boston Celtics when they went ice cold from three in their Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 against the Miami Heat. Though the Celtics were, on paper, probably the more talented team, they shot an abysmal 9-42 from the land beyond en route to an embarrassing 103-84 home defeat to eighth-seeded Miami.

And no NBA fan will soon forget the Game 7 performance by D’Antoni’s 2018 Rockets, who set a still untouched NBA record of 27 straight missed threes against the Golden State Warriors, proving that death will inevitably prevail at least sometimes in the “live by the three, die by the three” state of thinking.

So yes, to be sure, the Hawks should take more threes, while still being wary of what happens when a team becomes solely dependent on them to generate offense. Luckily, Atlanta still has Dejounte Murray on its roster. Murray is one of the NBA’s most lethal midrange weapons, with his 7-foot wingspan allowing him to get to his spots and simply shoot over almost every defender the opposition throws at him.

The ideal version of Atlanta’s offense will feature a happy balance of the two, in addition of course to some scoring from the post, a need that Atlanta would behoove themselves to look into addressing this offseason.

In any case, Atlanta will need to take more threes in 2023-24 than they did a year ago.

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Incorporating experienced, analytically-driven minds like Donaldson into the fray will undoubtedly help make that a reality.