It appears that not everyone was a fan of the Atlanta Hawks’ offseason. ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe continues a tradition that began at Grantland by ranking the best League Pass teams for the upcoming NBA season. The Hawks cracked the Top 10 in last year’s rankings but plummeted to No. 25 for this season.
Perhaps the ratings are skeptical about mixing Howard's slowing interior game with Budenholzer's pass-happy, outside-in machine. The Hawks built their team around the idea that defenses couldn't keep up with two big men -- Al Horford and Paul Millsap -- comfortable popping, dishing, and screening 25 feet from the hoop. On defense, Horford and Millsap harassed ball-handlers 30 feet from the rim, arms spread into passing lanes, forming a hydra that swiped a ton of turnovers.
What do they do now? On offense, they want to use the Dennis Schroder-Howard pick-and-roll to batter the rim -- a fine style, but also one that robs the Hawks of what made them the Hawks.
Can’t really fault Lowe for his analysis when many of us are still coming to grips with the changes. The Hawks were one of the more aesthetically pleasing teams in the league and helped usher in the new space and pace look to the NBA. Now as a large portion of the league is embracing that change, the Hawks are zagging again.
There isn’t anything wrong with that either. We don’t know yet what the new look will be and if it clicks then Lowe may want to rethink the ranking above. One thing is for certain though, these Hawks will be different.