Luke Babbitt creates space.
The Hawks’ newly acquired forward admired from afar a system that was ideally suited for his outside shooting game. Babbitt signed a one-year contract Wednesday to join a team he watched the past several years and believed he could thrive in the ball-movement scheme.
“Providing spacing for attackers on offense is important in today’s game,” Babbitt said after inking a veteran minimum deal worth $1.9 million. “With young guys, guys like Dennis (Schroder), (Kent) Bazemore and (John) Collins, guys who are attacking the basket, you need shooters to give them space.”
Babbitt enters his eighth NBA season as a 40.6 percent shooter from 3-point range. Last season with the Heat, he shot 41.4 percent from long range. The 28-year-old also played for the Trail Blazers and Pelicans after he was selected with the 16th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft from Nevada. He had a career-best 3-point percentage of .513 (59 of 113) during the 2014-15 season with the Pelicans.
The opportunity to play for coach Mike Budenholzer and the system he implemented over his four seasons was the main attraction for Babbitt to join Atlanta.
“I’ve noticed for years now what kind of style and the way guys play here,” Babbitt said. “You see guys get better and take their games to a new level. I think coach Bud is a really respected coach among the entire league. I don’t think that’s news to anybody. It’s a really good situation for any player.
“Nothing is ever promised, and I wouldn’t want it that way. I’m here to shoot and provide spacing and compete defensively. From that aspect, it won’t be different than what I’ve done for many years.”
Babbitt, 6-foot-9, believes he will play power forward much of the time in his new role. However, there is nothing set in stone in the new-look NBA. Thanks to the Warriors, versatility and nearly position-less lineups are a growing successful trend. Times are changing. Babbitt said he has learned over his career that today teams value speed, spacing and shooting. He believes that has helped him be a productive player.
“Luke is a proven veteran and adds another experienced player to our locker room,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said. “He is one of the premier long-range shooting big men in the league, has played a variety of roles over his career and will contribute to our team.”
Babbitt is well aware that he has joined a young team in rebuild mode. That doesn’t mean the Hawks can’t be successful. He knows a little bit about low expectations. The Heat started last season with an 11-30 record. Most wrote them off. Not so fast.
The Heat finished with the reversed record of 30-11 to finish the year at .500 and missed the postseason after coming out on the short end of tiebreakers.
After an offseason of major roster changes and losses, the Hawks were predicted to finish with the league’s worst record by ESPN and have the lowest power ranking by NBA.com.
“I don’t really give too much credence to that,” Babbitt said. “I think that stuff changes all the time. I just think it’s important that we compete and get better as a young team. There are going to be ups and downs, as with any young team. You have to compete because the team that plays hard every night will win a lot of games just playing hard. That is most important for us. The East is open. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched that we want to compete with anybody in the East.
“(The Heat’s second half) just shows that you can’t listen to outside noise. You have to stay together as a group. That’s what we did last year and it’s a good lesson for every team. There are teams that do that every year, surprise people.”
Babbitt will wear No. 8.