The Atlanta Hawks have had an up and down season and the injuries certainly do not help. The Hawks managed to get three wins this week, however, and the team kept its record at .500 as a result.
To that end, here is round-up of how power rankings are treating Atlanta this week.
Because they traded for him last February, Clint Capela wasn’t necessarily thought of as an “addition” for the Hawks this offseason. But he never played for them last season due to injury and, with Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari dealing with injuries, Capela has been the most prominent new face on the team that’s seen the league’s biggest jump in point differential per 100 possessions. Capela has averaged 14.2 points and 14.5 rebounds (ranking second in rebounding percentage), and in Minnesota on Friday, he recorded the league’s first points-rebounds-blocks triple-double in almost three years.
Capela has totaled 22 blocks in his last four games, and he’s not just swatting shots from off the ball. He had a few blocks (one, two, three) against Detroit on Wednesday where he stopped the ball-handler and then quickly recovered to block his own man after the drop-off pass. The Hawks’ eighth-ranked defense has allowed 11.4 fewer points per 100 possessions with Capela on the floor (101.4) than its allowed with him off the floor (112.8). That’s a remarkable differential for a starter playing mostly against the opponents’ best offensive players.
Alas, all that shot-blocking gave Capela a sore hand, and he missed the Hawks’ loss in Milwaukee on Sunday, when they were outscored, 50-22, in the restricted area. That was the first of five straight games against teams that rank in the top eight offensively, so it would be good if that hand heals quickly.
The Hawks got back on track with three wins over the teams currently ranked last in each conference — two over Minnesota and one overtime victory over Detroit — and Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee was played without point guard Trae Young or center Clint Capela. Atlanta surely missed Capela, who turned in back-to-back stellar performances prior to sitting. Capela had 27 points and 26 rebounds against Detroit on Wednesday and followed that up with 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks on Friday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first player with 15 rebounds, 10 blocks and no personal fouls in a game.
The Hawks started off the week on a three-game winning streak, and then lost to the Bucks on Sunday with Trae Young and Clint Capela getting the day off. They weren’t the most impressive wins — the Wolves twice and the Pistons in overtime — but Atlanta will take every victory it can get at this juncture. Considering the rough shooting start for Young and the injury problems they’ve had, the Hawks should feel pretty good about having a .500 record. Speaking of which, Young broke out of that slump this week, averaging 33.7 points on 13-for-22 3-point shooting.
My goodness, Clint Capela. Not only did Atlanta’s center turn in a 27-point, 26-rebound performance against the Pistons last week, he also added a triple-double with points, rebounds and blocks two nights later. It’s unclear when exactly Capela turned into a modern-day Hakeem Olajuwon, though even as his play inevitably regresses, the Swiss center should remain an integral member of the Hawks’ young core. Capela is now looking like his peak self after an injury-plagued 2019–20. He’s perhaps the game’s most athletic center in the open floor, and when fully engaged, he can be a ferocious rebounder. The Harden-to-Capela lob was a constant recurrence in Houston in previous years. Perhaps Trae Young can form a similar bond as Capela continues his career in Atlanta.
Atlanta seems to have moved up and multiple people have taken notice of Capela. The Hawks have a tough upcoming schedule which could do wonders to the rankings if they manage to secure a couple of wins in this upcoming week.