Should Travis Schlenk address Hawks’ defensive shortcomings in 2021 NBA draft?

Nate McMillan

Many analysts and media members are clamoring for the Hawks to draft one of a few prospects, though they all seem to revolve around an offensive player, usually a guard to play as Trae Young‘s backup. The Hawks will always be an offensive team with Young leading the charge, but Schlenk has also put an emphasis on defense with his recent selections. De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Onyeka Okongwu were all heralded for their defense coming out of college.

The Hawks, as a team, ranked 18th (112.1) in defensive rating and 20th in opponents’ points in the paint (48.7) — both per game. Atlanta needs a secondary ball-handler who can distribute efficiently when Young is off the court, but that someone can be brought in through free agency. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish‘s absences definitely alter this team’s defensive profile, but one of the reasons Atlanta lost to the Bucks was a lack of length.

Atlanta’s defense close to the rim is one of the better units in the league, given Clint Capela‘s impressive work in the paint, but they rank ninth-worst in opponents field goal percentage from 5-9 feet (42.8), ninth-worst from 10-14 feet (45.0), and seventh-worst from 15-19 feet (44.4). Nate McMillan‘s bulldog playing and coaching style has rubbed off on the team, as the group showed improvement throughout the year under him, but the Hawks need another body to match with these longer teams.

Someone like Davion Mitchell would be perfect for the Hawks, but he likely won’t be available when they are on the clock. Usman Garuba is an intriguing prospect with his 7-foot-2 wingspan and cunning basketball IQ. Garuba has played at a high level in the Spanish ACB and is only 19-years-old. He excels at defending pick-and-rolls and is a polished defender in one of the best leagues in the world.

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