By the time the 2022-23 NBA trade deadline arrived on February 7th, the Atlanta Hawks’ season was already showing to be a disappointment.
Coming off of a 20-point drumming against the Denver Nuggets on February 4th — their last game before the deadline — the Hawks sat with a 27-27 record and their hopes to move into the upper echelon’s of the Eastern Conference with the addition of Dejounte Murray looking pretty precarious, in borderline tatters.
In short, they needed inspiration — or change — from somewhere: something different to break away from repeating the same cycle of ‘win one, lose one.’ Before any coaching change took place the Hawks decided to go with a personnel move, acquiring Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey in a multi-team trade in exchange for five second round picks on trade deadline day.
It was quite a surprise at the time to see the Hawks pay as steeply as this for Bey — likely too steeply — but the addition of Bey undoubtedly added to what was an inconsistent Atlanta bench.
Coming from a larger role on a languishing Pistons team (where he averaged 14.8 points per game on 40% shooting from the field and 34% from three), Bey proved that less was more in Atlanta, as his percentages across the board saw an increase in a slightly reduced role. In his 25 games with Atlanta, Bey averaged 11.6 points per game on 47% shooting from the field, 40% from three in 25 minutes per game.
Bey was brought in primarily for one reason: three-point shooting — 54.8% of all of Bey’s shots after the All-Star break came from behind the arc, making two of his five attempts per game.
Bey’s shooting was one of the reasons the Hawks’ overall three-point shooting numbers saw an increase from 34.7% prior to the All-Star beak (22nd in the league) to 36.6% (16th in the league) post All-Star, with many of threes coming from one particular side of the court:
A lot of threes came in largely the same way: either in transition or with Bey in catch-and-shoot situations with the defense distracted in the middle — this describes a very large percentage of Bey’s threes.
Here, you can see the lane Bey clearly wants to get to and he shoots a great percentage in that corner, converting on this three in transition on the find from Dejounte Murray:
With Trae Young commanding attention in transition, Bey’s run to his corner is unchecked and Young finds Bey for three:
With Young and Clint Capela running the pick-and-roll, the defense is distracted from Bey’s threat on the weakside corner, and Capela does well to find Bey for the three in the corner:
On this next play it’s Young and Onyeka Okongwu who draw the defense’s attention and while Okongwu’s attempts to reclaim the ball bring him slightly towards Bey he still finds Bey in the corner for the three:
Here, Bogdan Bogdanovic’s advances on the rim draw the defense to him and away from Bey in the corner, and Bogdanovic finds Bey in the corner for the three:
This is the spacing that Bey provides to the Hawks, and the Hawks’ offense benefited with Bey on the court. In over 600 minutes, Bey’s offensive rating was a team-high 122.2 to go with a net rating of +8.
Bey also wasn’t shy at times pulling up into threes coming off the dribble, contested threes too:
Bey shot 39% on both catch-and-shoot and pull-up threes, though the former coming 44% in frequency compared to the 10% in frequency of pull-up shots.
You can see from Bey’s shot chart it’s essentially two things: the rim and three-pointers.
Bey wasn’t just a option getting to the three in transition but to the rim too, his willing and quick-charging runs giving the Hawks an option in fastbreak scenarios:
Bey also showed his capabilities as a slasher and was able to get to the rim and finish at a league average percentage of 60%.
Bey was able to make some tough plays going to the rim, as he does here as his drive is initially thwarted before he contorts to finish amongst a crowd:
Here, a nice drive and reverse layup from Bey in Washington D.C.:
Next, Bey attacks Jaylen Brown going to the rim and is able to withstand the challenge and finish:
On this possession, a quick drive from Bey from the corner on the catch and he finishes at the rim whilst drawing contact:
Bey has a great NBA-body and this really helps him on some of his drives, you can see here on this play how he’s able to best his defender physically:
“I think my strength is my strength,” said Bey during the Atlanta Hawks’ exit interviews. “If they’re not calling as many fouls then that’s a positive for me because I’ll be able to be more physical. When that whistle goes away, I actually like that more.”
Defensively, it was a bit of a nightmare for Bey: he’s just a poor defender one-on-one and time after time there was some defensive lapse or error that lead to an opponent basket — it was by far the weakest point of his game in Atlanta.
Overall, however, Bey has been a solid addition to the roster. Granted there were nights where the shot wasn’t there and when the shot isn’t there for Bey he’s a clear minus on the court due to his defense but on average he was able to make a contribution.
He also made an impact with Onyeka Okongwu off the bench, with Bey speaking to the camaraderie in leading the energy off the bench alongside Okongwu.
“Just playing hard, that’s what we said to each other on the bench,” said Saddiq Bey after a victory against the Cavaliers in late March. “To say ‘Hey man, all we can do is control what we can by playing hard and let it come to us.’ We feel like we try to be the energy guys off the bench and either maintain the lead or exceed it. It was a full team effort.”
Coming from a larger role on a team that was heading for the lottery, Bey was open to how the Hawks would deploy him offensively as he sought to help the team make the playoffs — his first trip to the postseason.
“I think the mentality has stayed the same as far as playing hard,” said Bey on how his game changed since February. “Whatever the team needed from my role, trying to space the floor out guard every position I can. I tried to stay true to myself, whatever the team needed whatever position they wanted I feel like I was ready.”
Bey not only had to adjust to a new role but almost immediately a new coach. Nate McMillan started Bey in his first outing in place of the injured John Collins before the All-Star break, during which McMillan was fired and Quin Snyder brought in his place.
Bey has already enjoyed the Snyder-experience and expressed his trust in him despite the short period of time they’ve worked together.
“Oh, it’s been great,” said Bey of Snyder. “Even though it’s been a short time I trust him with how he’s going to lead the franchise, the organization and me as a player.”
Saddiq Bey gave the Hawks’ bench a much needed lift not only when it came to shooting but someone who could go get a basket on drives too — someone who could make something happen — and this was something that had been missed, especially with Delon Wright, Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari moving on over the summer. With hopefully a solid summer in free agency, the Hawks can add to their bench and give themselves more options surrounding Bey’s spacing and shooting.