Atlanta Hawks Blog

A blog about Atlanta’s NBA franchise, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hawks practice report: Transition D still priority over offensive boards


The Hawks have been a poor offensive rebounding team in three of coach Mike Budenholzer’s four seasons. Well, “poor” may not be the right way to say describe it. Rather, the Hawks have ranked low in offensive rebounding stats because Budenholzer would rather his players sprint back to prevent transition chances rather than hang around the basket trying to collect misses.

The one exception was 2016-17, when the Hawks ranked 15th in offensive rebounding percentage. That happened in large part because Dwight Howard, always a good offensive rebounder, had the most productive season of his career collecting misses. His 15 offensive rebounding percentage and 4.8 offensive boards per game both ranked second among players who logged at least 2,000 minutes in 2016-17.

Howard is gone now and so is Paul Millsap, another very good offensive rebounder. Lots of their minutes will go to rookie John Collins and veterans Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala. Ilysasova has been productive on the offensive boards during his career, Muscala and Dedmon have been pretty good in fewer minutes and Collins has the potential to be good at it, too.

But none of them gobble up misses like Howard, so I figure the Hawks will slide back down near the bottom of the offensive rebounding rankings. However, Budenholzer gave an interesting answer when I asked him about transition D vs. offensive boards.

“John, obviously, his athleticism and his ability to go to the offensive boards and then Dewayne also, I feel like there’s a little glimmer of hope that we will maybe be a little better on the offensive boards than we have in the past,” he said. “But it won’t be an emphasis for me or a priority. It’s always going to be about getting back and being great in transition and establishing our identity there.

“There are teams that are able to do both, have their fours and fives go to the offensive boards and still get back and still be good in transition. Hopefully we can to do a little bit of both but, if I was going to prioritize one, it’s always transition ‘D.’”

The Hawks did a little bit of both in 2016-17 (see chart below). They were mid-pack in offensive rebounding and still effective defending in transition. But that will be difficult to duplicate with Howard gone and the Hawks planning extensive use of offensive sets in which the bigs are on the perimeter .

Source: Synergy Sports Technology

Belinelli on the mend

Budenholzer said Marco Belinelli (Achilles) ramped up his activity during Wednesday’s practice and could play in Thursday’s exhibition finale. Belinelli has sat out the past three games but said he would be ready for the season opener .

“My guess is he will play tomorrow but we will wait and see how he reacts tomorrow after doing some stuff today and kind of make a decision then,” Budehnolzer said.

Delaney lighter

Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney plans to play at a lighter weight this season after a change in diet that includes eating fewer fried foods and more fruits and vegetables.

“I tried to come in a little bit heavier last year thinking I had to be more physical,” he said. “I got back to my overseas playing weight at 190. I lost like 10 pounds. I changed everything (like) my diet. And I got a full summer to work out. When I played in Europe I didn’t work out in the summertime because we played so much. Last summer with everything with my family I didn’t really get to focus. This year I was back in the gym a week after the season and I stayed the whole summer.”

Not pretty

Budnholzer on Wednesday’s practice: "We scrimmaged quite a bit. But I think today was one of those days when you are kind of beat up physically, mentally and you’ve got to push through it. Sometimes it was not pretty but it’s good to kind of have some of those days (and) see what it feels like. And we got to work on some end-of-game stuff. Overall it was good. I don’t’ think it was the prettiest practice but it was still good.”

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.