The Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks begin a seven-game series this weekend at Madison Square Garden. Before tip-off, the Peachtree Hoops crew weighs in by answering five roundtable questions. In the first installment, the aim is to uncover Atlanta’s biggest matchup advantage against New York.
Brad Rowland: I’ll go broad with New York’s offense against Atlanta’s defense. It might sound crazy to focus on the defense as the Hawks’ biggest edge, but the Knicks are not an impressive offensive team. Yes, New York was red-hot against Atlanta in the regular season, shooting nearly 48 percent from three-point range, but that is a mirage, at least on some level. The Knicks do shoot a strong percentage (39 percent) from beyond the arc but it comes on bottom-five volume (30 attempts per game), and the Knicks are a bottom-10 offensive team in the NBA. As long as Clint Capela can stay on the floor and they can at least partially contain Julius Randle, the Hawks should be able to generate consistent stops.
Wes Morton: I’ll go the other way and say the depth of offensive options for Atlanta. With the re-integration of De’Andre Hunter to the healthy rotation, the Hawks have numerous ways to score and break down a very good Knicks defense. They can dive to the basket after screening with Capela and Collins or use their many shooters to come around down screens. Even with the possibility of trapping Young, Atlanta should be able to anticipate an aggressive defense, move the ball and score.
Glen Willis: The Hawks have a greater variety of ways to produce efficient offense than the Knicks. To start, they are just an overall more efficient team. Atlanta is 16th in eFG% and 9th in TS% while New York is 23rd in both statistical categories. The Knicks will, no doubt, throw a lot at Trae Young. However, the emergence of Bogdan Bogdanovic (career best 61.6 TS%) as a creator for the Hawks, to go along with John Collins and Danilo Gallinari (both well above average for their position) and Clint Capela, the best offensive rebounder in the league this season, provide ample secondary and tertiary sources of offense. And that’s before we even mention De’Andre Hunter returning from injury. None of the Knicks top scorers threatened to hit the 60 TS% mark this season.
Rashad Milligan: I’m going to copy and paste Wes’ answer and go with depth. The idea of Nate McMillan cutting his postseason rotation to the traditional eight players seems just insane because Atlanta has so many options, as discovered through the blessing-in-disguise that was the injury-plagued regular season. While the Knicks have a nice 10 options as well, I’m taking Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter and Lou Williams over Obi Toppiin, Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose.
Graham Chapple: It’s hard to nail down one outright advantage, but one of the things I think the Hawks really have going for them is the fact they have multiple outside of Trae Young that can get a bucket or ‘go-off.’ Bogdan Bogdanovic proved he can be the guy the Hawks lean on and can ride his hot-hand to victory. He’s played in huge games in Europe and became a EuroLeague champion there and he won’t be afraid — and he’s not afraid — to take (and then make) the big shots. Danilo Gallinari is someone who can ignite and his output off of the bench will be a key factor too. The Hawks have great options inside with John Collins and if Young is being doubled he’s able to make those passes to Clint Capela, who can also add a nice scoring output in said situations if it breaks that way. Outside of Julius Randle, there’s RJ Barrett, then Derrick Rose. Those guys can go off but you’d be forgiven for being a little more confident in the Hawks’ top-end supporting cast (I don’t mean the bench) when it counts.
Ryan Kerley: I think New York will have difficulty defending Atlanta’s depth offensively. Guarding Trae Young is enough of a problem, but this is not the Atlanta Hawks team of the last few years. The Hawks can score in different ways with different types of players. Bogdan Bogdanovic heated up after the All-Star break. He is a quick-trigger shooter that can’t be ignored. John Collins can work from all three levels, and Clint Capela can clean up inside with offensive boards. Young finally has players he can depend on and he can facilitate more as a result.
Malik Brown: I will have to say the Hawks offensive firepower. Dealing with Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter (if Nate McMillan decides to keep him in the starting lineup), John Collins, and Clint Capela is already enough to handle. Then you have Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, and Tony Snell coming off the bench. Not to mention, if De’Andre Hunter can knock his rust off, he could be a problem as well. Though the Knicks may have one of the best defenses in the league, you can’t take your eyes off of this Hawks team, or any player, because they’ve shown throughout the season they can catch fire at any moment.
Andrew Kelly: I think Atlanta’s advantage is the multitude of players who can have big scoring nights. This makes Atlanta a difficult team to defend because they don’t have a weak link offensively among their starters. It also makes Atlanta better positioned to survive a poor shooting night from Trae Young.
Josh Lane: Playmaking ability is probably Atlanta’s biggest advantage. This should be especially helpful when we see the expected double team of Trae Young.
Zach Hood: Trae Young. The Knicks have Julius Randle, but they don’t have a pure playmaker the caliber of Young. Randle draws attention and makes plays off of that, but Young can flat out carve up a defense with his playmaking. At over 25 points and 9 assists per game, Young is one of the premium shot creators in the game and Atlanta should (obviously) do everything they can to get him going.