The Long Two: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s improvement and the Hawks’ struggles

The Long Two: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s improvement and the Hawks’ struggles

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has included a brand-new technique to his bag this season, and the Hawks offense has actually had a hard time to get off the ground.
Much of Shai Gilgeous-Alexanders career has unfolded in relative obscurity, however the lack of a spotlight has actually done nothing to stall his development as a player. The 23-year-old made constant, substantive improvement in each of his very first three NBA seasons– consisting of a peaceful leap into fringe All-NBA territory last year– and put himself in the company of a few of the NBAs best guards.
Gilgeous-Alexanders use rate climbed by more than 7 points in 2020-21, his assist rate doubled and his true shooting percentage eclipsed that of Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, and Bradley Beal. His most visible development originated from behind the 3-point line, where Gilgeous-Alexander called up his volume and precision on a far more challenging shot diet plan.
Refining a right-to-left stepback assisted him shoot a sparkling 41 percent on nearly four pull-up threes per game, and his capability to fire off the dribble ended up being a required counter to defenders playing off him or ducking under screens in the pick-and-roll.

What new techniques has Shai Gilgeous-Alexander included this season?
This year, hes included a left-to-right side-step 3 to his arsenal:

Gilgeous-Alexander took that shot 11 times last season (a lot of which came out of desperation at the end of shot clocks and quarters) and made four of those attempts; through his first nine video games this season, hes 9-of-13. At 6-foot-7, Gilgeous-Alexander covers huge swaths of ground when he goes back, and his length provides him a high release point despite not getting much elevation on his shot. Hes taking almost 2 additional threes per video game this year– much of the side-step range– and now that he can shoot on the relocation in either instructions, hes opened up more than simply a much deeper bag of techniques.
For somebody like Gilgeous-Alexander, who relies upon modification of pace, shifting directions and subtle movements to create benefits, the risk of a move can be as important as the move itself. Taking something away versus a terrific gamer necessarily indicates giving something else up, specifically when that player can turn the tiniest false or lean enter a costly error. Gilgeous-Alexander has a simpler time getting downhill and either scoring at the rim or setting up colleagues if protectors have to chase him over ball screens. The more conscious a protector is of a pull-up 3, the more most likely he is to be caught susceptible and off-balance to getting beat off the dribble; protecting against the drive, nevertheless, just provides Gilgeous-Alexander more room to shoot:

One of the most significant concerns about Gilgeous-Alexander early in his career was whether his sluggish motion and deliberate set-shot would enable him to reliably develop area versus athletic, like-sized defenders. A 45-game sample isnt adequate to entirely stop those doubts (he just played 35 games in 2021), however Gilgeous-Alexander currently leads the NBA in seclusion scoring by a wide margin, ranks 2nd in points off of drives and is among the leagues preeminent pull-up shooters. That special combination makes him an incredibly well-rounded scorer, even if his volume and playmaking keep him a rung or 2 listed below the leagues best offending weapons.
There are times when Gilgeous-Alexander ends up being a little too scoring-focused, dancing into needlessly difficult jumpers or shunning an opportunistic pass to methodically dribble out the belongings. He has actually improved as a passer since being traded to Oklahoma City, however still doesnt have quite the vision or decision-making to drive efficient group offense. And while its still too early in the season to draw conclusions, a regression in 3-point shooting and general scoring performance may recommend that his 2021 production may not be totally sustainable.
Carrying such a heavy scoring concern has also sapped some of his worth on defense, where Gilgeous-Alexander is rather non-active. That could be an item of betting one of the worst groups in the NBA, and he definitely has the physical tools and improvement track record to enhance as a defender and playmaker. The Thunder are in no rush to win now, giving Gilgeous-Alexander the time he needs to operate at his own speed.
The Atlanta Hawks offense is spinning its wheels
Watch any of the Hawks very first 12 video games this season and youre likely to see an offense out of step with its workers. A group built around Trae Young– currently among the very best developers of 3-pointers and layups in NBA history– and a stable of shooters and secondary playmakers must not make scoring appearance difficult, yet this one appears almost incapable of generating simple shots. Theres a sensation of complacency to the method Atlanta runs its offense; where the leagues finest scoring teams work for much better shots, the Hawks tend to go for average ones.
Atlantas 15th-ranked offense hasnt been as bad as its 27th-ranked defense, however it has actually looked similarly detached, largely due to the groups shot selection. Regardless of being among the NBAs finest 3-point shooting groups, the Hawks currently own the 10th-worst reliable basket percentage in the league and the third-worst predicted percentage based upon their shot circulation. Their effort rates from 3 and at the rim have declined significantly from last season, while their share of long mid-range efforts (between 14 feet and the 3-point line) has actually increased to the third-highest mark in the league. The Hawks are striking less than 41 percent of those looks, the majority of which have actually come off the dribble.
That shot profile is constant with previous Nate McMillan-led groups, however it doesnt match the personnel on this lineup. The Hawks have a handful of capable mid-range shooters, but none so prolific that they should actively hunt 20-foot jumpers early in the shot clock. The groups boundary gamers can all create with the ball in their hands to differing degrees, however that doesnt imply every basket must be made off the dribble. Bogdan Bogdanović, for example, is a fine pull-up shooter, but shots like these actively leave points on the table:
https://youtu.be/lgXaV778SLo.
Only the Mavericks make fewer passes per game than the Hawks, who also rank 22nd in points developed via help and fourth in shots taken after at least 7 dribbles. That stagnancy creates a vicious cycle in which gamers force shots since they cant discover them within the flow of the offense, which just makes it more difficult to create great appearances within the circulation of the offense.

Some of it is on Young, who has been cold from practically all over on the flooring and heavily impacted by the leagues crackdown on foul-drawing. Bogdanović is taking nearly 4 less 3-pointers per 100 belongings than he did a year back, while Young and Kevin Huerter are both attempting 3s at the least expensive rate of their professions.
And yet, for all of their collective and specific struggles, the Hawks have actually still scored effectively with Young on the floor and will likely get even much better when he and his teammates start hitting shots at their usual rates. Its still early in the season, and Atlanta still has the firepower to run a vibrant spread pick-and-roll offense with numerous scoring and playmaking hazards. Fitting the pieces together simply might take more work than prepared for.

Gilgeous-Alexander took that shot 11 times last season (many of which came out of desperation at the end of shot clocks and quarters) and made 4 of those efforts; through his very first nine video games this season, hes 9-of-13. At 6-foot-7, Gilgeous-Alexander covers huge swaths of ground when he steps back, and his length gives him a high release point in spite of not getting much elevation on his shot. If defenders have to chase him over ball screens, Gilgeous-Alexander has a simpler time getting downhill and either scoring at the rim or setting up colleagues. The more mindful a protector is of a pull-up 3, the more most likely he is to be caught off-balance and susceptible to getting beat off the dribble; securing against the drive, nevertheless, just provides Gilgeous-Alexander more space to shoot:

A 45-game sample isnt enough to entirely stop those doubts (he just played 35 games in 2021), however Gilgeous-Alexander presently leads the NBA in isolation scoring by a broad margin, ranks 2nd in points off of drives and is one of the leagues preeminent pull-up shooters.