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Atlanta Hawks Get Much-Needed Break in Schedule
By Pat Benson,
The Atlanta Hawks have three days off before they host the Golden State Warriors.
The Atlanta Hawks have an unusually long break in their schedule beginning today. They have three full days off before hosting the reigning champion Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Atlanta's brief reprieve from the maelstrom of the NBA season could not come at a better time. Last night, they got thumped 136-115 by the Minnesota Timberwolves (sans Karl-Anthony Towns). Before that, Atlanta has lost four out of their previous six games since the arrival of Quin Snyder.
It is not the direction the team wanted to be heading in after a late-season coaching change. Especially when fighting tooth and nail to avoid the dreaded Play-In Tournament for the second consecutive year.
After Saturday night's tough loss to the Boston Celtics, Snyder told the media, "We are learning to script things out as we go, and that's the way it has to be." The perpetually-intense coach has had to be patient since leaving a family vacation early to accept another head coaching position in the NBA.
Of course, Snyder has kept the same coaching staff intact as his predecessor and much of the same systems. While Snyder's hands are tied when it comes to implementing his desired changes, he has worked to create more favorable looks for his players to succeed.
Additionally, Snyder's rotations are a clear indicator of how he evaluates the talent on the roster. The veteran coach is sticking with a nine-man rotation but is reallocating playing time (more on that later).
No player has benefited more from the coaching change than Trae Young. The 2x NBA All-Star had seemingly lost faith in McMillan but immediately bought into Snyder's vision.
Sure, Young can manufacture 27 points and ten assists per game with his eyes closed. However, he is doing it more efficiently. Over the past two weeks, Young has been shooting 48.4% from the field and 40% from deep. That's up from 42.9% and 32.7% before Snyder arrived.
More importantly, Young is locked in on defense. The undersized guard has tallied 14 steals since the coaching change. Only Jimmy Butler and Delon Wright have stolen the ball more times over the same period.
Of course, steals are not a perfect metric for measuring individual defense. Even defensive rating isn't an accurate barometer for how a single player's defense. Atlanta's defense has taken a step back as a team, but Young's play has enjoyed a giant leap.
Whether it is a new president sworn into office and bureaucrats get replaced, or a company gets absorbed and an executive's key card no longer works, or a new coach is hired and the rotation gets readjusted - there are always winners and losers with any major change.
Since Snyder arrived in Atlanta, some players have benefited while others have sacrificed. Bogdan Bogdanovic's minutes are down from 29.6 to 22.8, and his shot attempts have decreased from 12.8 to 8.4 per game. AJ Griffin's minutes have dropped from 20.2 to 7.3. In the post, John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu lost 6.1 and 4.1 minutes per game, respectively.
In addition to most of the starting unit logging more minutes, Saddiq Bey has received a larger role in the rotation. Bey is now fourth in field goal attempts and fifth in minutes per game. Halting the development of a promising rookie or relegating trusted veterans is a tough call, but the right decision by Snyder.
Much like the city's infrastructure, the Hawks are undergoing major construction. There will be delays and detours rerouting traffic that will result in occasionally ugly nights like last night's loss to Minnesota.
Just as players over-help on defense, there are redundancies on the roster that cannot be corrected until this summer. Snyder cannot solve all of Atlanta's issues overnight, but three days off could not have come at a better time for this team that is a work in progress.