After failing to stay on with the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers the Atlanta Hawks took a flyer on former Butler guard Shelvin Mack in March of last year. Hawks general manager Danny Ferry signed Mack originally to a 10-day contract, but would later re-sign him for the rest of the 2012-2013 season. Ferry elected to bring Mack back for the 2013-14 season on a one-year deal worth $844,293. Mack had bounced back and forth between the NBA and the NBA's D-League on his quest to stick with an NBA franchise long-term. Mack's impact on the court isn't a significant one, but it's been strong enough to keep him on board for this entire season. With Mack being on a one-year deal there is no guarantee that the Hawks bring him back next season. But should they?
The Hawks are littered with role players, but the majority of the role players have one or two things they're above-average at. Whether it's Elton Brand and his interior defense, or Kyle Korver and Pero Antic and their precision from beyond the arc they all have something they do really well, and they focus on that. Mack doesn't provide that. He's not a 3-point marksman, or a defensive stopper, or even a great passer. But that's perfectly fine for a couple of reasons. Mack does a lot of things pretty well, he just doesn't have that one area of his game that he can point to as his best attribute. That's not a bad thing, but that probably has a lot to do with why he's bounced around the league as much as he has. Certain teams value role players more than others, and the Hawks value them in a major way. It may because of the fact they don't have a traditional superstar, or head coach Mike Budenholzer's offense is built for role players to excel.
Whatever the case may be, Mack has stayed in the rotation for the majority of the season because he plays well within Bud's system. Mack is shooting 44 percent from the right corner 3 spot this season, but only 25 of his 3-point attempts have come from that area on the floor. To expand on that a little bit, Mack is shooting at an average or below-average rate everywhere else behind the 3-point line. Perhaps it's the small sample, but for whatever reason Mack has excelled in the right corner, and the coaching staff may need to find ways to get him more open looks in that area to utilize his strengths more.
3-point shooting is obviously a big part of Bud's system, but spacing and team defense is another important component of the system. Mack is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, but he's tough and constantly battles on the defensive end of the floor while helping the spacing on the offensive end. Mack can play the 1 or the 2, though he hasn't had a lot of time at the 1 this season with Jeff Teague, Dennis Schroder and Lou Williams around. Mack may not scare opposing defenses, but he's crafty around the rim and good at finding open guys around the perimeter.
Mack is averaging 20.5 mpg for the Hawks this season, a career-high, and it's largely because of how unselfish of a player he is and how well he fits in Bud's team-oriented system. If you can shoot 3's at an above-average rate that's obviously appreciated, but not every role player is going to be able to get to that level. Maybe Mack doesn't get there, but that doesn't mean he doesn't fit in this offense going forward. He's not the point guard of the future, but he's found a niche on the team as a do-it-all guard.
Mack is averaging 13.3 ppg, 6.6 apg and 3.8 rpg per 36 minutes this season. The points and assist numbers being the highest of his career. Mack is also shooting 33.8 percent from 3, just shy of league average. Becoming a league-average 3-point shooter is probably not out of Mack's reach if he stays in Bud's system. What also jumps out about Mack's per 36 numbers is how similar they are to Hawks' rookie Schorder's per 36 numbers. Schroder is expected to be a consistent triple-double threat in the league, and Mack might be the perfect stopgap backup point guard for the Hawks until Schroder is ready to take over the team.
Mack's game may not be the prettiest to watch, but Mack has become a big part of the Hawks rotation this season. Everyone has a role on this Hawks team, and Mack's production is worth holding to.