Hawks training-camp preview: a look ahead at the guards

Hawks guards Dejounte Murray (5) and Trae Young (11) walk back to the bench during their loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves at State Farm Arena, Monday, March 13, 2023, in Atlanta. The Timberwolves won 136-115. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Hawks guards Dejounte Murray (5) and Trae Young (11) walk back to the bench during their loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves at State Farm Arena, Monday, March 13, 2023, in Atlanta. The Timberwolves won 136-115. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

The Hawks host their annual media day in less than one week, with training camp opening Oct. 3.

Here’s a look at the Hawks guards:

Trae Young (26.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 10.2 apg, 42.9 FG%, 33.5 3FG%)

The star guard will look to build off of the momentum he gained toward the end of last season after beginning the season slowly. Young shot under 35% on 3-point shots through the first 52 games leading to the All-Star break, but he found a groove.

The team decided to make a coaching change, and the new philosophy seemed to inject some new life into it. With coach Quin Snyder aiming to build better spacing habits, Young and his teammates took advantage of the opportunities to knock down shots.

Now, Young has had a full summer of communication with Snyder to align philosophies.

While he will be the Hawks’ starting point guard when the team opens the season Oct. 25 on the road against the Hornets, Young will continue to share ballhandling duties with backcourt partner Dejounte Murray, and the two will look to build on the chemistry that seemingly blossomed in Game 3 of the Hawks series against the Celtics in the playoffs.

Dejounte Murray (20.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.5 spg, 46.4 FG%, 34.4 3FG%)

Like last season, it’s likely that Murray will be the primary facilitator during the non-Young minutes – and vice versa. But now the two guards have a full season together under their belts where they saw what worked and what did not work.

When the two meshed, the Hawks had the pick-your-poison offense that they predicted they would have when they made the deal to acquire Murray from the Spurs in July 2022. When they did not mesh, the Hawks had a seemingly disjointed offense that struggled to move the ball to find the right opportunities.

Last season, Murray’s 34.4% 3-point shooting came on a career-high 5.2 3-point attempts per game. So, the Hawks will look to take further advantage, especially in Snyder’s system that thrives on shooting.

The Hawks also will look to see more out of Murray on defense, as the team looks to improve on perimeter defense after opponents knocked down 35.6% (the NBA’s 10th best) of their 3-pointers last season.

Bogdan Bogdanović (14.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 44.7 FG%, 40.6 3FG%)

The sharpshooter missed the first quarter of last season recovering from offseason knee surgery. But after regaining his bearings, he found his groove.

Bogdanović, who turned 31 last month, made 45.3% of his 3-point attempts after the All-Star break, especially after the team reduced his minutes to help manage his durability.

To do so, the team mostly brought Bogdanović off the bench to provide an injection of offense onto the floor when things became stagnant or when it was time to give Murray a breather. The team likely will have Bogdanović come off the bench this season, as well, especially if it has forward Jalen Johnson move into the starting lineup following the trade of John Collins.

Patty Mills (6.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 41.1 FG%, 36.6 3FG%)

The veteran guard brings plenty of experience, including NBA Finals wisdom, to the Hawks backcourt. The team acquired Mills, 34, from the Thunder in July, and he provides it with a solid point guard who can run the team’s offense, keeping production and efficiency up coming off the bench.

Mills has plenty of skills as passer in the pick-and-roll that complement Young’s already elite skills. In last month’s FIBA World Cup, he averaged five assists per game, helping to power Australia on its bid for World Cup gold. Though Australia eventually finished 10th, Mills’ 18.6 points per game gave it huge lifts throughout the tournament.

He also gives the Hawks a pesky defender off the bench, who would fill the role that Aaron Holiday played last season.

Kobe Bufkin (rookie)

It’s unlikely Bufkin will play a lot of minutes in the coming season, as the team looks to acclimate its first-round pick to the NBA. But Bufkin does provide the Hawks with even more depth as a potential floor general after averaging 3.6 assists per game at the NBA’s Summer League in July.

Bufkin had a few shaky outings in July, where he averaged 14 points per game, and will still need some time to get used to the speed of the NBA. He shot 33.3% from the floor and 13.8% from 3-point range. But Bufkin played hard and showed enough growth from game to game that showed his commitment to constant improvement.

That’s what drew the Hawks to Bufkin and growing pains aren’t new to the rookie, who turned 20 on Thursday.

The Hawks will want to give Bufkin time to develop and grow into his body so that he can finish through contact against NBA strength. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds.

For now, Bufkin’s defense could be the way he earns some minutes in the rotation. He has a good read of the game and knows how to use his 6-7 wingspan and quick feet to sneak into passing lanes and fight over screens.

Wesley Matthews (3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.7 apg, 36.3 FG%, 31.5 3FG%)

The Hawks get another veteran guard in Matthews, who gives them a 37.6% career shooter from distance. Matthews played for the Bucks last season, primarily as a small forward, but he has played as a shooting guard for much of his career.

So, the Hawks will get some additional depth on the wing, who has a good read of the floor and can find space to knock down shots.

Matthews played only 16 minutes with the Bucks last season and might play less with Bogdanovic and forwards De’Andre Hunter and Saddiq Bey as the Hawks’ primary wings. The Hawks also have second-year forward AJ Griffin in the fold, who will look to fight to crack a rotation.

It likely will be an uphill battle for the veteran, as Snyder rolled deeper than nine players in his rotations on only a handful of occasions.

Garrison Mathews (4.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 36.3 FG%, 35 FG%)

The Hawks acquired Mathews at the trade deadline last season, and he played nine games with the Hawks. Like Matthews, it will be tough for Mathews to crack the rotation as the team has a number players and not a lot of minutes to go around.

On offense, Mathews can go out and knock shots down, particularly when he has a rhythm going. He has a quick release and gets up on his jump shots that allows him to find the basket over defenders. The Hawks also benefit from his intensity on defense

Trent Forrest (3.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 49 FG%, 18.5 3FG%)

A 25-year-old guard, Forrest returns to the Hawks on another two-way deal and will look to build off his 23 appearance (including three starts).

Forrest gives the Hawks a solid playmaker that doesn’t look to get too fancy with his game when he is called to action. He gives them what they need, especially on defense, where he uses his feet and athletic ability to be disruptive.