The Great Hawks Scream Machine.
Do they have such a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia? Perhaps they should.
The Hawks have reached the midway point of the NBA season with a 24-18 record (through Thursday) in what can be described only as an up-and-down first half.
There have been winning streaks and losing streaks. There was a change to the starting lineup. Kyle Korver was traded. Paul Millsap played the part of a yo-yo after being put on and then taken off the trading block.
The Hawks started the season 9-2. They proceeded to go 1-10 and sink below .500 and cause some degree of panic inside and outside the organization. The Hawks are 14-6 since the skid.
Here’s a look at the first half of the season:
Best win: The Hawks have victories over the Rockets, Cavaliers, Raptors, Thunder and Spurs. The wins over the Cavaliers, Raptors and Thunder came on the road. The win over the Spurs was the biggest considering recent, or not-so-recent history. The Hawks’ 114-112 overtime victory over the Spurs snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Spurs. The 20-point comeback in a road win over the Bucks and the early road win over the Cavaliers get honorable mentions.
Worst loss: The Hawks have losses to the Lakers (twice), Timberwolves (twice), Magic and Suns. The worst actually was a two-day span in which they lost to the Pistons at home, 121-85, and to the Raptors on the road, 128-84. Two days and two losses by a combined 80 points. Those were losses Nos. 5 and 6 of a seven-game slide.
MVP: Not a question. Millsap has been the Hawks’ best player. He is first on the team in scoring and second in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He has scored in double-figures 36 times, including 15 20-point and two 30-point games. Dennis Schroder gets an honorable mention.
Breakout player: A lot was put on the shoulders of Schroder as the starting point guard. There have been really good games and really bad games, but generally he has been solid. He leads the team in scoring. He has six point-assist double-doubles, 13 20-point and three 30-point games. He’s hit some clutch shots, most recently the game-winner against the Knicks on Monday. Mike Muscala gets an honorable mention.
Good surprise player: Tim Hardaway Jr. has had a breakout season in his own right, and the Hawks might regret their decision not to make him a qualifying offer and setting him up to be a restricted free agent. He will get offers this summer. Question is, will the Hawks match? Hardaway is averaging 12.0 points per game with 24 double-figure and nine 20-plus point efforts. Malcolm Delaney gets an honorable mention.
Bad surprise player: Mike Scott has been a valuable role player in years past. He has been anything but that this season. He missed training camp and the start of the season after several non-surgical procedures on his left knee. He has struggled in his return and made several stints in the D-League. He has been out of the regular rotation. Kent Bazemore gets a mention for inconsistent shooting in the first half.
What’s gone right: The defense has been good. The Hawks rank fifth in the NBA with a defensive efficiency rating of 102.8. The defense slipped during the losing streak but has risen back top five in the league during the last 20 games.
What’s gone wrong: The Hawks shooting, especially from 3-point range, has been an issue all season. They are 25th in the league in 3-point percentage at .343. For a team that relies on the 3-point shot, that’s not good.
Best offensive play: Hardaway hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left, on an assist from Dwight Howard, which gave the Hawks a four-point lead in a victory over the Bucks in December. The Hawks had trailed by 20 points in the game. It was the Hawks’ second straight win after the seven-game losing streak.
Best defensive play: Millsap saved the Hawks a victory over the Knicks on Monday with a block shot in the final seconds. After a defensive lapse allowed Derrick Rose a clear path to the basket, Millsap blocked the attempt at the rim, guarded a Carmelo Anthony miss on the offensive rebound and was in the middle in a battle as Joakim Noah missed a put-back. It preserved the Hawks’ one-point win.
Best dunk: Taurean Prince had the top throw-down with his effort against the Bucks in November. Prince drove past Jason Terry and went baseline for a thunderous dunk as Greg Monroe flailed in a block attempt and Mirza Teletovic backed away as fast as he could. Honorable mention goes to Mike Muscala’s dunk against the Cavaliers in November. Muscala followed a Thabo Sefolosha miss with a one-hand dunk over LeBron James and Tristan Thompson. He took a hard fall after the highlight.
Best performance in a drama: Schroder and the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas picked up right where they left off from last year’s playoffs. Thomas made the game-winner in the final seconds of the Celtics’ two-point win. Schroder accused Thomas of trash talk about his family. Thomas denied the accusation. The two don’t like each other. The teams meet again in Boston on Feb. 27.
Key transactions: Schroder was signed to a multi-year deal Oct. 26. Ryan Kelly was signed, and Edy Tavares was released Oct. 31. Korver was traded to the Cavaliers for Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams and a protected future first-round pick Jan. 7. Williams was traded to the Nuggets along with cash for the draft rights to Cenk Akyol and a $2.2 million traded player exception Jan. 18. Gary Neal was signed to a 10-day contract Jan. 18.
FIVE QUESTIONS RECAP
At the start of the 2016-17 season, the AJC looked at five questions facing the Hawks. Here’s a midseason report:
1. Point guard play and depth
The Hawks carry just two point guards in Dennis Schroder and Malcolm Delaney. There has been a luck factor in that neither has missed a game due to injury. There have been times during games when both have played and times when neither has played.
2. Getting Howard acclimated
Dwight Howard has fit with the Hawks with some growing pains. He has provided defense and rebounding. However, there is a ways to go in the pick-and-roll game. Guarding stretch centers away from the basket has been an issue.
There were concerns about the Hawks outside shooting before they traded Kyle Korver. It has been an issue midway through the season. They are 23rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage at .346.
4. Millsap trade rumors
Where to begin? The Paul Millsap trade rumors have been almost constant and hit a head this month when the Hawks put the all-star power forward on the trading block and then took him off. And that was in January. Expect more before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
5. Early success
The Hawks had a favorable early part of the schedule against mostly non-playoff teams from a season ago. They made it work in their favor. They started 9-2 before a 1-10 stretch erased most of the success.