The Atlanta Hawks have flirted with consistency and greatness in the NBA's Eastern Conference the last few years, but haven't been able to fly to the top of the mountain. The team finished the 2023-24 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 had to endure the last several years. Here are a few reasons why the Hawks have only themselves to blame for why things haven't turned out well for the team.

Defensive struggles

There's an old saying that says offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That proved true for the Hawks this year. The team struggled to get stops most of the season. The team's defensive rating was near the bottom of the league at 27th overall, per NBA stats. The Hawks had a defensive rating of 118.4, with only the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz putting up numbers that were worse.

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 also got exposed in the play-in tournament, as the team gave up 131 points to Chicago in a game that Atlanta desperately needed.

The defense wasn't just absent during the final game of the season. It wasn't there for nearly the entire campaign. The Hawks gave up 135 points or more 11 different times during the season, per CBS Sports. In comparison, the Minnesota Timberwolves never had that happen once. The Timberwolves also finished the year at the top of the Western Conference, while Atlanta is out of the playoff picture.

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

Banged-up Hawks couldn't find 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 wasn't able to stay healthy for a consistent period this season, and that helped to ultimately 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 did fall together, this team just couldn't find chemistry.

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

Atlanta's coach Quin Snyder deserves the blame for not getting the right personnel on the floor together, but it isn't all his fault. He's playing the cards he is dealt, and it was certainly a losing hand this past season.

Great coaching is needed 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 is on the head coach to fix that, and the heat is surely now on Snyder to come out of the gate strong in the 2024-25 campaign. If the Hawks don't improve their win record next season, the coach is probably not going to survive.

Atlanta finished the season with a 36-46 overall record. The team waits to see the results of the NBA Draft Lottery in May, to see where it can pick in the 2024 draft.