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Hawks are most responsible for the disappointing 2023-2024 NBA season

The Atlanta Hawks have only themselves to blame for the unfortunate end to the 2023-2024 season.

The Atlanta Hawks have flirted with consistency and greatness in the NBA’s Eastern Conference in recent years, but have failed to soar to the top of the mountain. The team ended the 2023-2024 season with a disappointing 131-116 loss to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Play-In tournament. It was the latest example of the frustration Hawks fans have endured in recent years. Here are a few reasons why the Hawks have only themselves to blame for the team’s downturn.

Defensive battle

There’s an old saying that says offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That turned out to be the case for the Hawks this year. The team struggled to get stops for most of the season. The team’s defensive rating was near the bottom of the league at 27th overall, according to NBA statistics. The Hawks had a defensive rating of 118.4, with only the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz posting worse numbers.

The Hawks struggled with giving up points in the paint, as well as giving up points on the fast break. The Hawks finished in the bottom six of the league in those two categories respectively. The lack of defense was also exposed during the play-in tournament, when the team gave up 131 points to Chicago in a game that Atlanta desperately needed.

The defense was not only absent during the last game of the season. It wasn’t there for almost the entire campaign. According to CBS Sports, the Hawks gave up 135 points or more 11 times during the season. By comparison, the Minnesota Timberwolves have never experienced that. The Timberwolves also finished the year at the top of the Western Conference, while Atlanta is out of the playoffs.

It was a real shame that the team struggled so much on defense, as the offense was really there for Atlanta during the campaign. The Hawks finished in the top five in the league in points per game despite battling injuries for most of the season. That point brings us to the next reason why the team has only itself to blame.

The hyped-up Hawks couldn’t find the chemistry

Chicago Bulls guard Javonte Green (24) defends Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) during the second half during a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at United Center.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta was unable to stay healthy for a consistent period of time this season, and that ultimately helped doom the team. Trae Young was out for several weeks with an injury to his finger and hand. Forward Jalen Johnson suffered an ankle sprain that kept him out of the lineup at times. But when the pieces fell together, this team just couldn’t find chemistry.

The Hawks actually performed better statistically on defense during the 23 games when Young was out of the lineup. That’s not a good sign for the franchise, as it shows it may be time for the Hawks to part ways with the guard. While it may seem ridiculous for the team to trade away the star of the franchise, something doesn’t seem quite right in Atlanta right now.

Atlanta coach Quin Snyder deserves some blame for not getting the right personnel in place, but it’s not all his fault. He plays the cards he’s dealt, and it was certainly a losing hand last season.

Good coaching is necessary to improve a team’s defense. The Hawks had the offense to make a deep run in the playoffs, but the defense just wasn’t there. It’s up to the head coach to fix that, and it’s now certainly up to Snyder to come out strong in the 2024-2025 season. If the Hawks don’t improve their winning record next season, the coach likely won’t survive.

Atlanta finished the season with an overall record of 36–46. The team is awaiting the results of the NBA Draft Lottery in May to see where it can pick in the 2024 draft.