The Hawks came into the 2019-20 season without a true backup point guard on the roster. They acquired Evan Turner in a swap of bad contracts for Kent Bazemore last summer, but he was far from a natural fit at the one, and it became evident quickly that this was a position he was best suited to play sparingly. While Trae Young was on the floor the majority of the time, the team did not have anyone to run the offense when he needed rest, and it showed.
Now, Coach Lloyd Pierce has a favorable problem to deal with: too many point guards to allocate minutes to properly.
The Hawks signed Brandon Goodwin to a two-way contract last August, and after an eye-popping run with the College Park SkyHawks, the team decided to give him a look in December. In just his fifth game with the team, he posted 21 points and 6 assists in 22 minutes against Orlando, making his presence known. The Hawks finally had a backup point guard on the roster, one with some serious upside, but lack of experience. Despite being a bit inconsistent, Goodwin has continued to flash for Atlanta.
In mid-January, the Hawks acquired Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Allen Crabbe. Teague spent the first seven years of his career in Atlanta, five as a starter, and made his lone All-Star appearance with the team. However, he has had trouble adjusting to a reserve role with the Hawks in his second go-around.
“We’re trying to implement him still,” said Coach Lloyd Pierce. “We’re still trying to figure out how he plays with Trae, how he plays without Trae, getting him accustomed to the guys he’s playing with.”
“We’re trying to fit him in a ton of ways. He’s learning me. I’m learning him. I know what his skill set is, I’m just trying to find a way to maximize it because he can be a great part of our future. I’m just trying to make it all work, and it’s not easy when you have to adjust roles at that stage now where he’s gone from being a starter most of his career to where we have a starting point guard in Trae, and that’s an adjustment.”
We have now heard both Lloyd Pierce and general manager Travis Schlenk mention Teague as a potential piece in the future. His contract will expire at the season’s end, and he will net just a fraction of his $19 million salary going forward. While Goodwin has shown some promise, the Hawks will have to fill out the roster, and there are only so many veteran point guards available this offseason that may be had on a short term, team-friendly deal. There are many reasons the Hawks have not won many games this season, such as inconsistency and weak defense, but a lack of experienced role players is one of them. Goodwin has the tools to be a great backup point guard, but the team may be looking to keep another in the mix with more experience. They gave him a vote of confidence last month when the Hawks guaranteed his two-way contract.
“One of the beauties with Brandon is, when he came into work, he continues to know that although he earned his contract, he’s not going to stop working and not still try to prove himself. I think that’s why he got the contract in the first place”, said Lloyd Pierce.
But that is looking too far ahead. For the 19 remaining games this season, Coach Pierce will battle to keep the right balance of minutes.
“It’s tough. You wish there were times you could play all three, and that’s not the reality, and at the end of the day, Brandon ends up taking the biggest hit. You play Trae, you play Jeff, and next thing you know, it’s like how do you even get him in there?”
It is a much better problem to have compared to earlier this season. These moves further prove that Atlanta has a goal of being competitive moving forward, putting together a product that is built to win. Don’t be surprised if we see the same trio back in action at the point for the Hawks in 2020-21, but perhaps with a different allocation of minutes if Goodwin continues to develop.