The Atlanta Hawks are no longer a dominant team.
They’re not as good a team as the Los Angeles Lakers, they’re no longer the favorite in the East.
They still have a chance to win the NBA title, and they’re just not as dominant as they once were.
It’s a big reason why, in the past year, the Hawks have become a much-maligned team.
“When you lose to the Cavs, you’re a better team,” one player said.
“They’re just a lot better.
When you lose against the Clippers, you can’t really compare.”
This is the year of the team.
The Atlanta Falcons have won three straight and are currently playing their final regular season game before the NBA playoffs.
The team has lost its past six games, but has been far more dominant than it was last year, when the Hawks were at their worst.
Atlanta has lost 16 straight, its worst start to a season since 2008-09.
It has the league’s fourth-worst defensive rating, allowing 101.4 points per 100 possessions.
The Hawks have been among the league leaders in turnover margin and third-best in defensive rating allowed.
They rank third in offensive rating allowed, though that’s actually up from their season averages last year.
The biggest change for Atlanta, though, has been a change in how the Hawks’ defense plays.
The offense has been better.
The defense has been even better.
They’ve both been very good at what they do.
“It’s kind of a change, because it’s always been a defense-first organization,” one member of the Hawks said.
When the Hawks got a good defense, the ball was in their hands.
“And then it changed,” another member of Atlanta’s defense said.
This season, Atlanta has given up the most points per possession to opposing teams, per NBA.com, than any other team in the league.
That has hurt the Hawks.
They were supposed to be a top-four defensive team, but instead they’ve fallen far behind the rest of the league in the defensive efficiency department.
“I don’t think we’re going to be that good, because I don’t see that changing,” another player said, explaining why Atlanta’s defensive rating has fallen.
“The thing that’s been very consistent is we have a great offensive rebounding team, so we’ve just not been able to get those stops on those fast break points that you need for those points.”
It’s not just the Hawks who are struggling to get stops on fast break point, either.
“We’re not getting stops,” another team member said.
It hasn’t always been this way.
Atlanta started the season with a team defense rating of 95.3, and it has now dropped to 93.8.
That is an improvement, but it’s not quite where it needs to be.
The teams top scorer, Kyle Korver, has shot 37.4% on those shots.
Korver has also been one of the worst defenders in the NBA.
He has taken 13.3 shots per game against the Hawks, according to Synergy Sports.
His assist rate is down to 3.7, and he’s been much worse at defending the rim, where he’s taken 16.6 shots per night, according, per Synergy.
The big men, especially DeMarre Carroll, have been struggling.
He’s taken an even bigger percentage of his team’s shots at the rim this season, at 17.9%.
He has been just 2.5% worse than the average defender, according the Synergy stat.
Carroll has been one big reason the Hawks are struggling so badly, with his struggles getting him shots.
“You can’t just shoot it.
You have to be able to guard the rim,” Carroll said.
He was even better against the Bulls on Monday.
“A lot of times when he’s got to make a play to get the rebound, he’s just taking the shot,” said one member, who added that Carroll has become a “disaster” this season.
The issue isn’t just about defense.
There is a bigger problem with Atlanta’s offense, too.
The average Atlanta offensive rating is a mere 87.1.
That ranks third in the entire NBA.
Only one team in that top half is worse than Atlanta: the Denver Nuggets.
Their offense is averaging 88.2 points per game, but the Hawks rank 25th in that category.
The Nuggets have won 11 of their last 12 games, including a four-game winning streak, and their offense is still allowing a league-low 102.1 points per contest.
They are allowing opponents to score 109.9 points per 120 minutes.
In other words, the Nuggets have been one defensive nightmare.
When asked about their defense, Atlanta’s stars, including Korver and Michael Beasley, have repeatedly expressed frustration at their team’s inability to stop opponents’ fast break shots.