With the sound of the final buzzer at Philips Arena on Saturday November 24th, it not only closed the book on a horrible loss at home to the Toronto Raptors but it also marked the Atlanta Hawks’ 20th game of the season — the unofficial quarter-way-through the season mark.
With the Hawks not in action again until Thursday, now seems like a great time to cast an eye back on the first quarter of the season and go over the season so far, and hand out some first quarter awards.
Look, it hasn’t been pretty.
The Hawks are 4-16 with the second worst winning percentage (20%) in the league and some of the losses haven’t been pretty of late.
Most people who follow the team closely knew this team was going to struggle. This is how the front office built assembled this team — they knew what they were getting into when they let Paul Millsap, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha go and signed guys to short-term year deals. They knew they weren’t making the playoffs and they knew things could get tough.
But we all knew (or should’ve known) this going in — if not, you certainly do by now — so that’s another conversation for another time (and another comments section).
I think it’s fair to say the Hawks have played better than that record would suggest. In a handful of games they’ve played teams close/have comeback from large deficits to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, but have fallen short on many occasions.
As is the case for pretty a lot of teams in the NBA, when you don’t put together a full 48 minute performance, it’s tough to win in this league.
Now, some teams (like your Golden State’s) can toy around for three quarters, turn it on in the fourth quarter and win. Some teams can afford a bad quarter/half and they can do enough to recover.
For the Hawks, they’re a team that just can’t start slow, or slow down in the second half. If they do that, there’s a strong chance they’re probably not winning that game. Look at that Toronto game — one bad stretch and that was it, the game was over before the half.
One thing that hasn’t helped the Hawks in this first quarter was the schedule: 11 road games out of 20 (including 10 of their first 14 games of the season) and five back-to-backs.
Obviously that five game road trip to begin the season wasn’t great for the Hawks (1-4) and then 0-3 on another road trip earlier this month.
The more concerning thing of late is that the Hawks haven’t fared much better at home — five of their last six games have been at Philips Arena and they’ve won just two of those.
Another thing that hasn’t helped the Hawks: injuries.
Seemingly everyone has missed game time: Dennis Schröder, Malcolm Delaney, Isaiah Taylor, DeAndre’ Bembry, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Babbitt, Miles Plumlee and Mike Muscala — ALL of these guys have missed time due to injuries, some more than others.
This, in addition to the schedule, has really hurt the Hawks and is part of the reason — among many others — why the Hawks are 4-16.
Of course, if you’re pro ‘tanking’ then this season has been absolutely fantastic for you so far— the Hawks have played hard and lost games. If you wanted the Hawks to win as many games as possible, I’m sorry, it’s probably not getting a whole lot better (but you never know).
It’s not been a great season, so let’s do something positive — let’s hand out some first quarter awards.
Dewayne Dedmon vs. Denver Nuggets — October 27th
Amidst the return of Paul Millsap to Philips Arena and the first home game of the season, Dewayne Dedmon gave the home crowd something to cheer about with this great dunk coming out of the pick-and-roll:
Shoutout to John Collins, but most of his dunks were open while this was, sort of, on someone, and this dunk was better than John Collins’ dunk on Cedi Osman (Who?? Exactly...)
Possibly a slightly controversial choice but there hasn’t been a really definite ‘best dunk’ so far...
Malcolm Delaney on Shane Larkin vs. Boston Celtics — November 18th
Off of a Hawks turnover, Shane Larkin thinks he has an easy layup/dunk but Malcolm Delaney had other ideas...
That was a huge block, all hustle. And the fact it comes from a guard in transition rather than a big on help defense makes it so much better.
Honorable mention to John Collins and his block on Lauri Markkannen.
Dewayne Dedmon’s three-point shooting
Coming into his fifth year in the league — and his first with the Hawks — Dewayne Dedmon began to dip his feet into the three-point waters. In preseason, Dedmon hit the first three-pointer of his career but we didn’t know if it would continue when the regular season started — like Dwight Howard and that mid-range jumper...would he actually use it in proper games?
But not only has Dedmon continued to take those three-point shots, he’s made them to great effect. Dedmon is shooting 48% from three on an average of 1.5 attempts per game. That number was at 50% very recently too.
I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted this from Dedmon so far, and it’s helped not only Dedmon’s overall game but the Hawks’ offense too as he spreads the floor.
He doesn’t just jack them up either just because he can make them (and has made them), he chooses his spots nicely and that really helps.
(Edit: When I say that Baze has been disappointing, I’m seeking to highlight his shooting numbers and his consistency as the things that have disappointed, not Baze overall. Baze has done other things well this season, his passing/facilitating in pick-and-roll is much improved)
Amidst all the changes the Hawks have gone through this past summer, Kent Bazemore remained and — before the season started — was (probably) the undisputed second best player on the squad. It’s Dennis, it’s Baze and it was Ilyasova or Prince (depending on your thought process) heading into the season — those were the three guys who everyone thought would be the better players on the squad.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone well for Baze.
Baze — as was the case many-a-time last season — has been inconsistent. Just take his recent stretch as an example of that. Starting from the Hawks’ loss against the Pelicans on November 13th to the Raptors loss on Saturday the 24th:
22 points, eight points, 19 points, five points, 14 points, 11 points, three points...
That sort of consistency isn’t going to help the Hawks across a season.
His shooting numbers are not good either: 39% shooting from the field and 35% from three — there have been some real duds from Baze.
And, look, this is not to say he’s bad. When he’s on it, Baze is pretty solid but that’s the problem, isn’t it? He’s not always on it, the good performances come and go. It’s mountains and valleys with Bazemore.
Baze has also run his mouth with the officials this season. Baze, at one point, led the league in technical fouls with four techs but has stayed out of the official’s naughty list of late.
In a year where he had a great opportunity for a larger role and to really stand up and be counted, Baze has disappointed so far. His assists numbers are up, which is nice, but the shooting some nights is painful to watch.
November 5th vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 117-115
When the Hawks entered Quicken Loans Arena on an eight game losing streak, there was a sense of opportunity — the Cavaliers were reeling somewhat and were vulnerable.
The Hawks finally started a game off the way they wanted, exploiting the Cavs’ poor defense and scoring 37 first quarter points and kept at it, taking a 13 point lead into the final period.
The Cavs begin to reel the Hawks in, with former Hawk Kyle Korver catching fire in the final period. When the Hawks seemed as though they had the Cavs over and done with, they allowed them to sneak back in, and the Cavs missed the opportunity to win the game when Channing Frye’s open three rimmed out — ending the Hawks’ eight game losing streak.
It’s always good to win games on the road but to win against a LeBron James team is always extra nice and doing it to break a streak like that was fantastic for the Hawks, who brought it from minute 1 to minute 48 to win this game.
November 24th vs. Toronto Raptors — 112-78
Yes, the most recent loss is the Hawks’ worst — a 34 point home loss to the Toronto Raptors after a great win against the Knicks the night before.
The Hawks were just run out of their own building behind a flurry of Toronto threes and poor shooting from the Hawks meant they were down by 28 at the half and trailed by as many as 45 in the latter stages of the third quarter.
Just a complete pummelling at home. I’m sorry if you were in attendance and watched it in person or just watched it in general...
Tyler Cavanaugh vs. New Orleans Pelicans, November 13th — 16 points, 6-of-7 from the field, 4-of-4 from three and six rebounds
This came from literally nowhere.
Tyler Cavanaugh was a late addition to the Hawks squad with injuries (as well as other factors, I’m sure) prompting the Hawks to use their second two-way contract on Cavanaugh.
In his first few games, Cavanaugh didn’t do much. He came in for a few minutes, grabbed a few rebounds, maybe a few points and that’d be it.
Then came this game.
Against the Pelicans, Cavanaugh exploded for 16 points off the bench shooting 6-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from behind the arc:
Again, no one expected it, no one could’ve predicted it.
It was wild.
Best Individual Performance
Dewayne Dedmon vs. Sacramento Kings, November 15th — 20 points, 9-of-10 from the field, 1-of-1 from three, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in 24 minutes
The night the Hawks won by 46 points, the night Dewayne Dedmon looked like Hakeem Olajuwon:
Dedmon was dominant in this particular game and, sure, part of that was because they were playing the Kings, but Dedmon was still great and contributed on all fronts.
Best Young Player
Let’s define ‘young’, first of all: under 24 years old and less than four years experience in the league (sorry, Josh Magette, but happy 28th birthday).
Not really close this one... Not a lot of people to choose from
Let’s go through it: DeAndre’ Bembry is automatically ruled out because he has been injured almost all season (he has just come back), Isaiah Taylor hasn’t been around long enough, Tyler Dorsey hasn’t played enough games either and Tyler Cavanaugh hasn’t done enough in the short time he’s been with the club.
It comes down to two players, Taurean Prince and John Collins, and Collins has been better (Prince has been inconsistent at times but has been good).
Collins is averaging 11.5 points per game on 58% shooting from the field and 7.1 rebounds per game in just under 23 minutes per game.
More than the numbers, Collins comes in and provides immediate energy, immediate rebounding and immediate dunkz.
He comes in, he scraps, he does the little things, he gets the crowd into it and he gets the bench on their feet — he has just come in and produced straightaway and is now the starting power forward.
Will he stay there when Babbitt and Muscala return? Who knows, but Collins has been the bright spark in a dull season for the Hawks so far.
No real surprise here — leads the Hawks in scoring by over five points, averages just under 20 points per game on 45% from the field, 35% from three and leads the Hawks in assists with just under seven per game.
Defensively, he’s very bad but offensively he’s fantastic.
He’s one of the few players on this team who can create his own shot (others can do it on occasion but not like Dennis can) and can almost get any shot he wants — there’s not many guards who can stick with Dennis off the dribble. When the Hawks need a bucket, he’s their go to guy.
Whether you like it or not or agree with it or not, the Hawks go as Dennis goes. If he has a bad game, see-ya later.
When Dennis scores 17 or fewer points in a game, the Hawks are 0-7.
When Dennis missed two games with an ankle injury, the Hawks averaged 89.5 points in two losses. For the season, the Hawks average 102.2 points per game.
What he means to this team on the court is obviously huge and that’s why he’s the most valuable Hawks player.