2 new shooters have made Hawks a playoff team

Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari goes to the basket against the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari goes to the basket against the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Hawks finished 30th among 30 NBA teams in 3-point percentage last season. They acquired Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari over the offseason, spending $133.5 million for two players who haven’t been All-Stars. The Hawks rank 12th in 3-point shooting this season. They’re also good again. Cause and effect, you’d have to say.

ExploreHawks: ‘We can control our destiny’

You know this already, but the NBA is a 3-point league. If you make treys, you tend to be good. If you don’t, you have no chance. The 2019-20 Hawks made 33.3 percentage of their 3-pointers, which is considered the absolute statistical minimum. (If you make 33.3 percent on 3′s, you score a rounded-up 100 points, which is what you’d have if you make 50 percent on 2′s.)

Hawks team leaders

Last season’s Hawks took 36.1 treys per game, eighth-most in the league. They finished 25th in effective field-goal percentage, a metric that accounts for a 3-pointer being worth, duh, more than a 2-pointer. This season they’re taking fewer 3-pointers – 33.6 per game – but making more. (They make 12.5 a game, up from 12 last season.) They rank seventh in EFG. For the first time since 2017, they’re a winning team. Cause and effect.

Some folks wondered when the Hawks landed both Bogdanovic and Gallinari. Did spending so much for two shooters amount to overclubbing? Answer: no. In baseball, you can’t have too much pitching. In the 21st century NBA, where analytics and the Houston Rockets have taught us that the only shots worth taking are 3-pointers and layups, you can’t have too many shooters.

Bogdanovic ranks 21st in the league in 3-point percentage. Gallinari ranks 25th. Bogdanovic has made 42 percent, Gallinari 41.2. The NBA average is 36.7 percent. Trae Young and Kevin Huerter remain below the league average. Take away either of the pricey imports, and these Hawks aren’t much different – well, except for the presence of Clint Capela, the NBA’s leading rebounder – from last season’s Hawks, who didn’t qualify for the Disney bubble.

The Hawks beat Portland, a playoff-caliber team, Monday. They took 41 3-pointers, making 20. That’s 48.8 percent, and that’s great. Young and Huerter were 1-for-9 on treys. Bogdanovic and Gallinari were 14-for-24. When they shoot, you never expect them to miss.

Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) is defended by Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) as he tries to shoot in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, May 3, 2021, in Atlanta.
Caption
Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) is defended by Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) as he tries to shoot in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, May 3, 2021, in Atlanta.

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

With Capela inside — he has taken two 3-pointers in his pro career, making neither — and John Collins on the wing and with Young’s ability to drive the lane, this has become a balanced offense. (Young leads the NBA in free throws, FYI.) With Gallinari heading the second unit, it also has become a deep one. No telling what might happen if/when Cam Reddish and/or De’Andre Hunter return.

As regular-season games go, Monday’s was fairly significant. By winning, the Hawks stayed a half-game ahead of Miami in the Southeast Division. The Hawks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, which is why the victory of April 23 — accomplished without Young or Capela — was hugely significant. They have six games left. Only one is against a team above .500. Only one is on the road.

The Knicks are 1-1/2 games ahead of the Hawks. The Knicks’ next four games are with Denver, Phoenix, the Clippers and the Lakers. All are on the road. This matters because, if the standings hold, the fourth-seeded Knicks would face the No. 5 Hawks in Round 1. The No. 4 seed would have the home-court edge. Given the respective schedules, the Hawks have a real chance to grab the No. 4.

What nobody wants is the No. 7. As is, that’s Boston, which is 1-1/2 games behind the Hawks. The Celtics have two games left with Miami and one with New York. The No. 7 seed will be placed in the four-team play-in tournament, about which LeBron James has said: “Whoever came up with that (expletive) needs to be fired.”

But that’s enough for today. What matters is that, for the first time in a while, we’re talking playoffs and mentioning the Hawks. For all its injuries and its underperformance under Lloyd Pierce, this has become a nice team. Nobody will relish facing a team with Young and Capela and Collins and — let’s not forget — Bogdanovic and Gallinari in the postseason. Some opponent will have to do it, though.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks