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On Tuesday afternoon, the Atlanta Hawks parted ways with head coach Nate McMillan after a turbulent first half of the season. Interim coach Joe Prunty will now assume control of the remaining games for the remainder of the year.
With the firing comes an expansive search for the next head coach. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that ex-Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder is expected to be the leading candidate, followed by Milwaukee assistant Charles Lee and Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson.
If you're a fan of the Atlanta Hawks, you may have noticed that they aren't playing with their usual fire-breathing offense. They have lost their shooting touch and are ranked 22nd in effective field-goal percentage - meaning their halfcourt offense is now ranked below 10 percent. Furthermore, Atlanta hasn't been as good defensively either; ranking 26th overall for defensive efficiency.
It is the coaching staff's fault for this failure, particularly head coach Nate McMillan. Last season he replaced Lloyd Pierce and led the Hawks to an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference finals. But this year he made several mistakes such as pulling Delon Wright and Marcus Williams out of the rotation in March and overrelying on Young running the offense late in games.
One of the major issues with Young is his unwillingness to buy into the team's system. As part of a coach's job, it is his responsibility to sell players on an approach that benefits all members of his squad; much like Steve Kerr did when he switched from Mark Jackson's predictable offense to one based on ball movement which ultimately resulted in four championships for Golden State Warriors.
Young's shooting numbers have been down this season, as his field goal percentage has dropped to 41 percent and his three-pointers are hitting at an unfavorable 32 percent. It's no surprise that Young's numbers have suffered as a result.
He's still scoring 27.8 points per game with 2.9 rebounds and 9.6 assists, though with more efficiency than last season. If he can improve upon his game, he could once again be the star of this Hawks team.
But Young faces a daunting challenge. His lack of patience this season and lack of leadership qualities have been evident issues.
It's no shock that tensions have been building between Young and McMillan recently. According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick from The Athletic, McMillan attempted to give Young an ultimatum before their game against Denver this week: either play off the bench or not show up at all on Friday.
The Hawks are betting on Trae Young to end their championship drought, but the superstar guard will need to adjust his approach following Nate McMillan's firing. Rumors swirl that the veteran coach may be on his way out after their team lost to Houston Rockets in the first round of playoffs on Tuesday; it is believed he will move on to an assistant job before returning to coaching duties.
The team needs a coach who can shape Young's game. The young star has already demonstrated his potential as a leader, but the Hawks need someone who can assist him in doing so effectively.
Young must develop an appreciation of humility if he hopes to be an outstanding leader. That trait will be essential in the long run, and something he must practice regularly.
Young is sometimes caught up in the frenetic pace of the game, which can cause him to lose focus on his overall game. On Wednesday night, for instance, he swiped at Kansas State's Xavier Sneed on a play that should have been called for a foul.
That's why he needs to adjust his attitude on the court and focus on being humble. He's not the only player in the NBA with that kind of mentality, so he needs to ensure it doesn't become an issue inside his head.
He should also focus on honing his shooting technique. While it may not be as proficient as when he was at Oklahoma, it remains one of the best ways to score points in the NBA.
Another obstacle for Young has been his defense, which is averaging a career high in turnovers and showing no signs of being able to adjust it to the league's more demanding styles of play.
Young must focus on two major areas for his career to be remembered, so it's critical that the Hawks find a coach who can help him develop those abilities. Otherwise, Young may never reach his full potential as an outstanding player.
On Tuesday, the Atlanta Hawks parted ways with Nate McMillan after two seasons of under-performing play. But McMillan wasn't solely to blame for their inability to reach the potential of their talented roster--including Dejounte Murray--because Young's lack of interest in being more active off-ball has been at the root of their recent difficulties.
It can be challenging for a guard to put in the effort necessary to become an effective off-ball player, but if Young wants to improve and enhance his reputation, then he needs to start doing it.
He needs to start running the offense more effectively and consistently, which will not only enhance his shot-making but also give him more chances to be active on offense.
Trae Young has shown signs of being an adept passer off screens, yet he has yet to establish himself as a reliable spot-up shooter from there. His 33.3 percent career shooting from that position isn't bad, but he hasn't hit more than half of the shots taken on catch-and-shoot plays since his rookie year.
McMillan hasn't been able to capitalize on Young's strengths on the floor, which is a problem. To fix this issue, Young needs to start making more of an effort to run the offense in late-game situations.
When the Hawks can make that happen, Young will become a more valuable fantasy option. He's been averaging top-25 per-game value in 9-cat formats over the past couple weeks and will have another opportunity to build upon that next week when the Hawks take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Even if Young's offensive game improves, it won't be enough to overcome the team's defensive problems. Atlanta has an average net rating of minus-8.8 during clutch time -- games where five points or less decide the victor -- which is far below average and has lost four out of five against quality opponents this season; these losses have put the Hawks in a precarious situation heading into the second half of play.
On Wednesday, after Nate McMillan's resignation as coach, Young must adjust his game to fit the new coach and the rest of the Atlanta Hawks. This can be a difficult thing to do, but it is necessary if you want your players to give their all.
Last season, Young was one of the NBA's most dominant offensive players. He led the league in points per game, total assists and shooting percentage; additionally he had the highest assist-to-turnover ratio among all point guards and became the first player ever to record over 30 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds in a single game.
He was a major factor in Atlanta's early success last season, providing the team with offensive spark and leading them to victories in their first two playoff games.
Since then, Young's performance has declined. He is averaging just 15.3 points and has not shot well from three-point range in five games.
His field goal percentage has dropped from 63% to 57% this season, and he's taken fewer three-pointers overall. It appears that this is likely due to fewer defenders being penalized for closing out, leading them to play more aggressively on defense - which will negatively affect Young's ability to shoot off the dribble.
Young needs to hone his shooting technique if he hopes to become one of the top five shooters within one year. He already has the Nash part down pat, but needs to be more aggressive on offense.
If he succeeds, his name could move up the Buckley list for next year and even be named the league's most dominant player.
Young should step up his defensive game as well, since he's been accused of abusing the rules in recent seasons.
Last season, he was often seen jumping into defenders in an effort to draw fouls. This behavior proved detrimental last year and must be changed if he wants to reach his full potential this season.