The Hawks want to pick up the pace

Through their first nine games of the season, the Hawks haven’t been playing as fast as they want to.

That starts with Trae Young, who mentioned after Thursday’s loss to Utah that he felt he wasn’t being aggressive enough. At the shootaround in Phoenix, ahead of the Hawks’ game vs. the Suns on Saturday night, he expanded on that — what that looks like is playing faster and finding more success in transition.

“We’ve been playing kind of a lot more half-court this year and a lot more half-court pace and slower pace, and I think for us, with the guys we’ve got, the shooters we have and the guys who can make plays in transition, I think the faster we play, the better we can be,” Young said.

Through their 4-5 start, the Hawks are No. 25 in the NBA in fast-break points per game (10.1) and No. 22 in pace at 99.22 (number of possessions per game). They didn’t play the fastest in the regular season last season, either, finishing No. 22 in pace (98.68), though that bumped up to No. 5 (97.61) among playoff teams.

McMillan agreed with Young, who as the team’s floor general almost always controls the pace for the Hawks. He also pointed out the Hawks’ defensive struggles (No. 25 defensive rating at 109.8 as of Saturday afternoon) do them no favors in transition, as they’re typically playing against a set instead of scrambling defense.

“As I said to Trae, Trae establishes our tempo,” McMillan said. “And I think he needs to play a little faster and be aggressive, be himself. So I just think that he is the guy that establishes the tempo that we want to play at, that is certainly up to him, and if he doesn’t have anything early, we want him to get us organized and play late.

“But I think what we’ve been doing is kind of been playing late, and really it’s because we’re taking the ball out of the net. We’re not forcing a lot of misses, so now you’re playing against a set defense. It starts with us on the defensive end of the floor getting stops, so that we can get the ball to him and get out into transition.”