The Hawks’ 2021-22 season can be summarized using one word — disappointing. Coming off a postseason run that ended a couple of games shy of the NBA Finals, expectations were sky-high for Atlanta this season. Following Sunday night’s painful loss to the Heat, which puts the Hawks at a 3-1 series deficit, one thing is clear — Trae Young needs a co-star.
Miami’s defense has been suffocating. And all Hawks fans should tip their hats to the game plan and execution of the Heat. Young has been held to 35.1% shooting from the field and 21.2% from beyond the arc, while averaging 16.5 points and 6.0 assists in four games — a significant drop from his 28.4 and 9.7 regular season averages. The prolific point guard has committed 24 turnovers to just 24 assists. Outside of his incredible fourth-quarter performance in Game 3, Young has been held in check better than he ever has in his entire NBA career.
“I haven’t been guarded like this — I’ve been guarded like this every now and then, but (not) consistently since high school,” Young said after Game 4. “Obviously, it’s way better competition. It’s hard for me to score a lot more through the double-teams and face guards at this level. It’s a challenge for me. I’ve got to learn how to fight through it and make it easier for myself and my teammates. I’ll figure it out. That’s my plan.”
The Hawks don’t have the firepower to compete in the playoffs when Young has an off night. There’s no go-to secondary option who can consistently affect the game as a scorer and passer. John Collins isn’t the player that can break down a defense one-on-one, and Kevin Huerter is a catch-and-shoot wing. Bogdan Bogdanovic is best suited as a third option and spot-up shooter. De’Andre Hunter has taken a step back this season and has absolutely no ball control when driving to the basket. The burden is entirely on Young, and the Heat are taking full advantage.
Relying on one player to carry the load offensively is not a formula for success and reinforces the notion the Hawks need a co-star next to Ice Trae. The logistics of acquiring another superstar are muddied, which will be detailed in a later article, but not impossible. We could be seeing the end of this Hawks core Tuesday night. And this offseason should be even more eventful than 2020, which netted Onyeka Okongwu, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire
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