Story by KL Chouinard
Luke Babbitt, who signed with the Hawks last week as a free agent, is ready to jump into head coach Mike Budenholzer’s pace-and-space system.
“When I got the call, the first thing I thought of was Coach Bud. I’ve always respected what he did from afar,” Babbitt said. “I’m really excited to play for him and be with this young group of guys.”
The 6-foot-9 forward spent last season with the Miami Heat and started in a career-high 55 games. He averaged 4.8 points per game and finished tied for ninth in the NBA in three-point percentage at 41.4 percent.
In a written statement, General Manager Travis Schlenk heaped praise on Babbitt and his ability to shoot.
“Luke is a proven veteran and adds another experienced player to our locker room,” Schlenk said of the seven-year vet. “He is one of the premier long-range shooting big men in the league, has played a variety of roles over his career and will contribute to our team.”
Babbitt figures to be a key floor-spacer for a team that plays the style that he prefers.
“The ball moves,” Babbitt said of the Hawks. “(It’s) unselfish basketball, and guys get after it defensively.”
The Hawks zipped the ball around the floor last season by nearly every statistical marker, but didn’t always have the shooting to convert. They finished 2016-17 ranked 10th in assists, tied for 3rd in secondary assists, and 8th in potential assists.
Shooting isn’t the only thing that matters in basketball, but it certainly is one of the biggest. Consider that last season, the three teams that ranked at the top of the three-point percentage leaderboard – San Antonio (39.1 percent), Cleveland (38.4) and Golden State (38.3) – won a combined 179 games in the regular season and went 9-2 in playoff series.
The Hawks would do well improve their long-distance prowess (23rd in the League last season), and Babbitt fits that objective perfectly. And in addition to Babbitt, the Hawks re-signed Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala in free agency. Those three frontcourt players combined to make 275 of 722 threes last season (38.1 percent).
Babbitt noted that he is ready to help the teammates who will be setting the table for him and other shooters.
“Dennis (Schroder) and (Kent) Bazemore, they’re the attackers on this team,” Babbitt said. “It’s something I’m really looking forward to this season: creating space and opportunities for them.”
Babbitt said that between now and the beginning of training camp, he hopes to find a new home, work on his defensive explosiveness and get up enough practice shots to keep his shooting stroke finely-tuned. It’s a weapon that should prove extremely useful for a ball-sharing team in a league that emphasizes shooting now more than it ever has.
In short, Babbitt is ready to jump in and function as a cog in Bud’s beautiful, basketball machine.
“It’s winning basketball,” he said. “It’s modern basketball. It’s how the game is played now.”