Taking a Closer Look: The Atlanta Hawks
The Sixers don’t get to waste any time after taking the Wizards down in five games on Wednesday, as their next opponent is already set to come into Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon for a 1pm tip-off. Let’s take a look under the microscope at the Sixers second round opponent: the Atlanta Hawks.
When talking about the Hawks, everything starts and stops with one man. Trae Young. The former fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft has solidified himself as the franchise cornerstone for Atlanta for years to come. This is also Young’s first year in the post-season after the Hawks got him enough help for a playoff berth in the weaker East.
There’s no beating around the bush on this one, the Atlanta Hawks offense lives and dies on the play of Trae Young.
Trae Young is a very potent scorer, who’s shown an ability to score on every level. Young has no issue driving onto bigs, and can always fall back on his floater in the midrange. He also possesses a reliable three point shot, something many are familiar with from his run in the 2018 March Madness tournament with Oklahoma. Trae recorded his second season averaging above 20 points a game this year with 25.
What really elevates Young’s play though is his passing ability. Young plays an unselfish style of basketball, constantly feeding his three point shooters and bigs on alley oops. Trae finished the regular season averaging 9 assists a game.
While Trae Young has proven to be a very big offensive threat, there are holes in his game. His ability on the other side of the court isn’t anything more than lack-luster. Young has proven to have trouble guarding bigger guards due to his 6-foot-1 stature, and I expect the Sixers to take full advantage of it.
Trae likely won’t be guarding any primary ball-handlers for the Sixers until bench players get their minutes. Young will likely be left to chase either Danny Green or Seth Curry around the three point arc. What I am most interested to see is if Seth Curry continues to have success in taking his defender off the dribble. I think that Trae would have trouble keeping up with Curry if he doesn’t just hover around the three point line.
Outside of Trae Young, this team plays in a very similar style to the Washington Wizards. You have your one major facilitator that creates opportunities for the other players on the court. This time instead of Russell Westbrook, you get Trae Young. The key difference is the level of talent between the players Young is kicking out to is much higher than who Westbrook passed to. John Collins, DeAndre Hunter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic all averaged above 15 points in the regular season playing in the starting lineup with Young. Collins and Bogdanovic in particular are knockdown shooters who both hit 40-percent of their threes in the regular season. The Sixers once again are going to have to deal with a team that loves to rain triples. In their series against the Knicks, Atlanta averaged nearly 36 attempted threes a game.
Outside of their three-point shooting the Hawks love to run the pick-and-roll with their center Clint Capela. Capela is your typical offensive threat center who utilizies his height and speed in the screen game. Capela also averaged 15 points a game on the season, but also led the league in rebounds with just over 14 a game. Atlanta loves to get him dunks off the pick and roll, and Capela will always be active on the offensive glass.
Looking at the benches the Hawks really only have two major players off the bench. The biggest player is Danilo Gallinari their sixth man off the bench. Gallinari usually comes in for Capela and allows the Hawks to run a small-ball lineup that the Sixers could exploit, especially if Joel is good to go in this series. Gallinari also adds even more three-point shooting, with him recording a 40-percent three-point shooting season this year. The other guy you can expect to see is Kevin Huerter who is another shooting guard that hit 43-percent of his threes in the regular season. If you still can’t get it through your head, this is a modern three-point shooting offense through and through.
Listen, you have to give credit where credit is due. The Hawks did win a series against the Knicks in very convincing fashion, but I am not worried. The difference between the Sixers offense this playoffs versus the Knicks offense this post-season is monumental. The Hawks will have their hands full with Tobias and Ben, regardless of if Joel can play game one.
With the breakdown coming to a close, this will be a harder series for the Sixers regardless. Now, all we can do is wait for Sunday to see how it all goes down.
Mandatory Credit: ESPN, MSG, Nathaniel S. Butler.