Hawks looking to develop ‘hard-hat’ mindset

Heat guard Max Strus goes up for a shot against Hawks forwards John Collins (20) and De'Andre Hunter. The Hawks have a few things they need to address as they look to rebound from a disappointing end to the previous season. Defense is at the top of the list. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: AP

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Heat guard Max Strus goes up for a shot against Hawks forwards John Collins (20) and De'Andre Hunter. The Hawks have a few things they need to address as they look to rebound from a disappointing end to the previous season. Defense is at the top of the list. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: AP

The Hawks have a few things they need to address as they look to rebound from a disappointing end to the previous season. Defense is at the top of the list.

Atlanta ended the regular season with the fifth-worst defensive rating in the league, and it carried over into the playoffs. It had a defensive efficiency of 115.9 by the end of its series against the Heat.

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So, the Hawks will look to make sure their players have a defensive mentality.

“It’s no secret that we need to be better defensively,” said Landry Fields, who is preparing to assume a new role as the team’s general manager. “And part of that is, yeah sure, it’s definitely a mindset but all development is, is the continuous aggregation of rep after rep after rep and making sure that these guys are developing and properly preparing themselves for a defensive mindset and we get out there because that is absolutely an area we have to get better at.”

The Hawks might add a defensive-savvy veteran, but Fields said the onus remains on those inside the organization to improve in that area.

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Onyeka Okongwu and Delon Wright had the best defensive ratings among players who suited up for 20 or more minutes.

“We haven’t been secretive about wanting to get help from the defensive end, and that is going to boil down to what’s available out there and how we see that as being a fit into what we need to do defensively,” Fields said. The NBA draft is Thursday night.

“There’s still very much a responsibility on our own guys to take those necessary steps as (well as) those in leadership from Coach (Nate McMillan), to Travis (Schlenk), to myself. It’s about setting the standard for that and making sure we’re consistently giving good feedback for our guys.”

Of course, the Hawks retaining Wright could give the team the veteran presence needed to aid in the internal development Fields mentioned. The Hawks acquired the 30-year-old, who is set to become a free agent this summer, last August as part of a three-team deal.

Fields said there was interest in Wright potentially returning, but he did not elaborate on whether the Hawks planned to extend any offers next month.

Fields is looking for the Hawks to develop a “hard-hat approach” to defense this season.

“That’s been part of the reason why we probably haven’t taken that step is we have to have an everyday hard-hat approach to our defensive capabilities,” Fields said. “And, for us, it’s going to be ‘how do we continue to get tougher, how do we continue to make the right rotations take pride in point of attack defense.’ All those things are all considered into that, and the identity piece is going to come when we see it consistently.”