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Hornets welcome struggling Hawks to Charlotte

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Atlanta has lost 17 of their last 20 games coming into Sunday’s showdown.

Atlanta Hawks v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (9-15) vs Atlanta Hawks (5-17)

When: 5:00 pm EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Before I say anything about this evening’s game, BIG thank you to the Atlanta Hawks for trading Devonte’ Graham to the Hornets on draft night in 2018 for 2019 and 2023 second-round picks. A small price to pay for the best shooter, passer, and overall nicest player in NBA history.

Now I will say things about tonight’s game; Atlanta is struggling mightily coming into tonight’s game. They’ve lost 17 of their last 20 games (5-17 overall), they rank in the bottom-five in both offensive (104.6) and defensive rating (113.9). They are dead last in 3PT% (31.2), and 29th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.32) and turnover percentage (17.1). To put it in layman’s terms; the Atlanta Hawks are a pretty bad basketball team at this point in the season.

Despite the Hawks being bad, there are still a few bright spots for them. Trae Young is fourth in the NBA in points per game (28.7), fifth in assists (8.4), and is well on his way to an All-star selection in just his second season if he keeps producing. Jabari Parker seems to have become a serviceable NBA player again, averaging 16 points per game as the Hawks’ second-leading scorer, and he’s done a much better job on the defensive end than he has in the past. Atlanta’s 10th pick in the 2019 draft, Cam Reddish, had his first good game in the NBA against the Nets on Dec. 4th. He posted 25 points on 10-17 FG, six rebounds and three steals. During the draft process, a lot of prospects said he was the most likable guy in the class, so based off of that fact alone, I hope he continues developing and stops looking like the mediocre player that he’s been for much of the year.

Atlanta’s injury report lists John Collins as out after being suspended 25 games last month for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and rookie De’Andre Hunter (who looks great so far) is doubtful after dislocating his finger. Allen Crabbe is questionable with right knee soreness.

For the Hornets, Marvin Williams is listed as probable after leaving Friday’s game with right knee soreness. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play, but it couldn’t hurt Marv to take a night off.

This is a good chance for the Hornets to right the ship after losing two of their first three games in a five-game home stand. Much like the Hawks, the Hornets also cannot/will not rebound the basketball or play defense, and have a penchant for turning the ball over. This game could be a slopfest, but the Hornets tend to win (or at least keep it close) those kinds of games.

It will be interesting to see how James Borrego navigates guarding Young on the perimeter. Terry Rozier and Devonte’ are both smaller than Young is, and more-importantly, not suited to guard him one-on-one. With John Collins out and De’Andre Hunter most-likely out, I think throwing some double-teams or traps at Young with either Miles Bridges or PJ Washington would help slow him down and force their lesser scorers to make plays. There really isn’t much to focus on on the defensive end other than slowing down Young.

Atlanta is also similarly bereft of big man talent minus Collins, with Alex Len and Damion Jones manning the middle. If Cody Zeller is ever gonna hit the boards, tonight would be the night. Second-chance points could be a difference-maker in a game between two teams that have a black hole in the middle of the paint.

The Swarm are heading back to Charlotte for the evening, it appears. Perhaps this means that Marv gets the night off? If so, he’s earned it, and seeing some Jalen McDaniels would be a welcome sight. He’s been playing well in Greensboro (I’ll have a Swarm Report coming soon), as has Cody Martin, who is frankly too good of a defender to be playing in Greensboro (unless the Hornets have days off).

Should be a fun one tonight. Shout out to the NBA scheduling committee for the 5:00 PM start when I have to get up for work at 5:30 AM tomorrow. A true life-saver. Not for me, but for my work, because I would definitely be calling out if this were a late start. Alas!