A Guide to Watching the Tanking Hawks

Nobody enjoys watching a losing team, but maybe this guide can help.

The Hawks began the 2017-2018 season in the form of an old, beat-up car. They have loads of spare and misfit parts, some fancy new rims, and ultimately will end the season running on fumes. It won't be pretty to watch. Casual Atlanta fans will abandon them by Christmas. There will be a few brave souls left standing come April. We're only 11 games into the season and the Hawks have managed just two wins. It's going to get rough. This guide is for those willing to man the trenches, those looking for a few silver linings however faint they are. 

1. Watch Coach Mike Budenholzer have complete freedom with the offense

Bud is known for his fondness for fast offenses and lots of spacing. With no star players to force touches to and only one player skilled at creating their own shot (Schroder), the Hawks are looking to move the ball and space the floor with speed. Whip-fast ball movement is always fun to watch for basketball purists. Through eleven games, it hasn't translated to scoring a lot of points, but there are some positive signs. The team is ranked eighth in the league in pace. That means the team is creating a lot of possessions during games, they're just not converting those possessions into points. However, there is one part of the offense where Bud continues his reign of mastery: side out of bounds and after timeout plays. The Hawks rank in the top five in each of those categories in terms of points per possession. 

2. Debate whether or not Dennis Schroder is an elite point guard 

The early season answer to that question is an emphatic "yes." He's been scorching defenses with his speed to the tune of a career-best 22 points per game. Speaking of career bests, he's also shooting 40% from the three-point line. His shooting has long been considered an area of weakness so it's encouraging to see him make deep shots at a high rate. However, it's early. It'll be interesting to see if he can maintain this success as defenses zone in on him throughout the year. This is undoubtedly a make or break season for Dennis' future with the Atlanta Hawks. He's their best player and will need to take control of the locker room to prove he can be a leader. It's a tall task for the 24-year-old. 

3. Take bets on which Hawks' player has a losing related meltdown first

This team is accustomed to quite a lot of winning in recent years. It's inevitable that someone becomes frustrated and lashes out in some way. The safe money is on Dennis. He has a history of mostly minor off the court issues, except for one major incident recently. Don't count out golden boy Mike Muscala though. 

4. Track the evolutions of Taurean Prince and John Collins

Prince is a second-year small forward coming off an up and down, albeit promising rookie season. Collins is a prized rookie power forward from Wake Forest. Each has obvious upside and they could become major parts of the franchise for seasons to come. Prince will need to prove he can play both ends as a starter night in and night out. Though he's only a second-year player, he is already 23 years old. He'll need to show tangible progress in his ability to shoot the ball from deep and create shots for other players. He shot only 32% from three and 43% on 2 pt field goals during his rookie campaign. He has shown improvement in a small sample size so far this year. For Collins, it's much simpler. He needs to play hard and learn how to handle the rigorous NBA schedule. His body is still raw so he'll definitely have trouble keeping up with some of the physicality of the league. He's already shown a great ability to rebound the ball - he's grabbing 20% of the rebounds available while he's on the floor. Oh, and he'll need to keep making highlight plays like this one. These are two players worth keeping an eye on every night. 

5. Speculate on trades

Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are the two players most likely to be traded this season. They are each crafty veterans skilled at scoring the basketball. There will be teams on the cusp of playoff success looking to add players like this later on in the year. If the Hawks could get a few second rounders or a project player in return for these guys, that'd be a success. 

6. Watch available draft prospects

If everything goes as plan the Hawks will have a top 3 draft selection at the end of the season. If things go even better, the Hawks could have three draft picks in the first round (somewhere Sam Hinkie is crying tears of envy). Those three first-round selections could help build the foundation for years to come. A top 3 pick in this loaded draft could guarantee a franchise player like Luka Doncic or Michael Porter, Jr. 

7. Visit the bizarro world of the Hawks subreddit

Once these items aren't enough in the doldrums of a lost season, there's one place that might liven things up. The Atlanta Hawks subreddit. It is a place full of fact, fiction, memes, and intense fanship. It will make you laugh and scratch your head. The Upvote Factory is as unique to the Atlanta Hawks as Philips Arena is.    

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