It wasn’t the first month we had hoped for, but the team made it through a rough patch of the season. Every road to a championship is rocky and fraught with unforeseen obstacles. Learning how to deal with adversity in November will pay dividends in May. Put the west coast road trip and De’Andre Hunter’s injury aside, and there are still plenty of reasons to be thankful at this point in the season. Here are my top ten things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Shooters Warming Up
Three of the Hawks most lethal outside shooters – Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari – got off on the wrong foot to start this season. Let’s begin with Huerter. Fresh off signing a contract extension, ‘Red Velvet’ went 5-25 (20%) from three-point range in the first nine games. Over the last nine games, he’s gone 20-41 (48.7%) from deep. Like I said, after one of his more challenging games, the shooting slump was just a statistical outlier.
Bogdanovic is coming back down to earth after a breakout season last year (leaving the Sacramento Kings has that uplifting effect on players). However, ‘Bogi’ has been consistent. Fans and media alike want him to shoot more. Lastly, Gallinari missed the first three games with a shoulder injury, and his production has increased alongside his increased minutes. ‘Galo’ is averaging 11 points on 50% shooting from the field over the last five games.
Strength of Schedule
According to ESPN, the Hawks have had the fourth hardest schedule so far. Tankathon ranks their remaining strength of schedule at 16th. Although the team has failed most of its early-season tests, they should at least face an easier path forward. Four pivotal games against the Miami Heat will help decide who wins the Southeast division.
Trae Young Adaptability
All of the Twitter trolls were ready to pounce on Trae Young this season. Given the new rules that nerfed his ability to get the foul line, his critics were expecting his game to fall apart. You thought. Actually, Young is still averaging 25 points and 9 assists (marginally less than last year’s averages), despite shooting 3 fewer free throws per game. ‘Ice Trae’ is only getting better.
Cam Reddish Development
Although he’s still prone to streaky shooting and shaky on-ball defense, Cam Reddish has made significant strides this season. He’s averaging 11.8 points per game on 40.9% shooting from the field and 36.3% from three. Reddish has provided the punch that the bench desperately needs. A few weeks ago, I wrote how Reddish is the team’s failsafe, and that remains true.
Clint Capela Return to Form
It’s hard to believe, but Clint Capela led the league in rebounds last season on a bum Achilles tendon. The big man got a PRP injection this summer and had to resort to different conditioning methods to prepare for the season. As a result, Capela missed all but one preseason game and had to play his way into shape throughout the first few weeks.
However, he’s averaging 11.9 rebounds per game and is third in total rebounds this season with 215 boards. Once the Hawks defense improves and Capela isn’t forced out of position as much, his rebounding will become more prodigious.
John Collins Work Ethic
Who signs a 5-year, $125 million contract and comes back more motivated? John Collins. The military brat has a blue-collar work ethic and doesn’t forget where he came from.
‘John The Baptist’ is averaging 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game which is solid. But his efficiency is mind-blowing. Only three players who play 32+ minutes and shoot 11+ shots per game have a better true shooting percentage than Collins (64.5 TS%) – Jarrett Allen, Nikola Jokic, and Kevin Durant. Collins deserves to be an NBA All-Star this year, plain and simple.
Zero players-only meetings. Zero subtweets. Zero drama. Not a lot of teams could say that after suffering a six-game losing streak. But this team never blinked. They bounced back and are on track to make another playoff push this season. This young roster moves as one and is devoid of ego. Which is likely the reason they don’t get much national attention. Negativity sales in sports and the Hawks don’t peddle that garbage.
Fans Back in the Arena
The NBA’s 75th season would not have been the same without fans in the stands. Basketball is a living, breathing sport, and fans are its lifeblood. We’ve already seen awesome interactions between Hawks players and fans. Given the strength of State Farm Arena and the team’s character, we will only see more cool moments like this in the future.
Players Using Platforms for Good
It may not make some people happy, but the NBA is built on player activism. For much of the past 75 years, players who have been a voice to the voiceless, champions of truth. Witnessing Trae Young flourish off the court is just as gratifying as watching him drop 30+ points. Activism is ingrained in the fabric of the league and the Hawks franchise. This roster is carrying on that important tradition.
It’s not just the players that give back to the community. Almost every day, the Hawks organization is finding new ways to help those who need it most. Whether it’s underserved families, veterans, or the LGBTQ+ community, the Hawks take care of their flock. Their partnerships with corporations are not novel, but their vision for the future is unmatched.