Atlanta Hawks Team Previewby Jackson Caudell September 29, 2021 1 comment
What a tale of two seasons it was last season for the Atlanta Hawks. After a tough start, the team fired head coach Lloyd Pierce and promoted former Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to head coach. After McMillan was promoted, the Hawks took off. Atlanta went from outside of the playoff picture to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and finished with a record of 41-31.
The Hawks beat the New York Knicks in only five games in the first round. Then, the Hawks pulled a big upset against the No. 1 seeded Philadelphia 76ers in seven games. After winning game one of the conference finals in Milwaukee, the Hawks fell in six games to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. After the most successful season in franchise history, what do the Hawks do for an encore?
Make sure to check out all of our other NBA Season Previews.
The Hawks may not have made any headline moves across the NBA, but they got better and should be a deeper team this season. The two biggest news items were re-signing John Collins to a bigger deal and keeping him with the team long-term and promoting McMillan to the permanent head coaching position. Collins has gotten better in every season that he has been in the NBA and should continue to grow.
The Hawks made a trade with the Sacramento Kings to acquire their new backup point guard Delon Wright, who should be an upgrade on both ends of the floor. Atlanta re-signed fan favorite Lou Williams to help their bench and signed center Gorgui Dieng to backup Clint Capela. Atlanta had two draft picks and used them on Duke forward Jalen Johnson and Auburn guard Sharife Cooper. This was a quiet offseason for the team, but they improved and that seemingly flew under the radar.
The Starting Five
PG – Trae Young
SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic
SF – De’Andre Hunter
PF – John Collins
C – Clint Capela
This is going to be a group that did not get to play a lot of minutes with each other last season. Hunter had trouble staying healthy and had a lingering knee injury for most of the season. Bogdanovic missed significant time as well. It is going to be interesting to see if this group needs a lot of time to get used to playing with each other.
Young is the guy making everything work and ascended to superstardom in the playoffs. Capela is one of the more underrated defensive players in the league and could be a sneaky candidate for defensive player of the year. If Hunter is healthy and can build on the improvements that he showed last season, this can be one of the best starting lineups in the NBA.
Collins was one of the most important players in the postseason for the Hawks and it was imperative that they found a way to re-sign him. Collins has made great strides on both ends of the floor and the Hawks could not risk losing him. Bogdanovic was a lethal shooter when healthy, but that was his biggest issue last season. He can catch and shoot and be an extra ball-handler on the floor for the Hawks when healthy.
This is setting up to be one of the best bench units in the NBA. Leading the way will be two sixth man of the year candidates in Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari. Huerter is well known among NBA fans now after saving the Hawks season in Game 7 against Philadelphia. Gallinari can be a defensive liability at times, but when he is hot from shooting, he can put up 20 points in a hurry.
The guy that every Hawks fan is anxious to see come off the bench this season will be Cam Reddish. The former top 10 pick has shown flashes of being a high-level player, including his performance in Game 6 against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals. Reddish has elite ability already on the defensive end, but he must show more offensive consistency to reach his ceiling.
The bench got deeper with the additions of Wright and Deng. Williams will give them a scorer that can get hot at any time. The bench will also get better when Onyeka Okongwu returns from injury. Okongwu was the sixth pick in 2020 and showed flashes of his upside toward the end of the year. Solomon Hill does return to give the Hawks a veteran presence in the locker room and that can’t be understated.
One Potential Move to Make
For a team that is wanting to run it back and has a starting five locked in, there is not a lot the Hawks can look to do or even want to look to do. However, a move the Hawks could make is trading for a disgruntled star that wants out. Who that is is unclear, but the Hawks should monitor things closely around the league and be ready to pull the trigger if the time comes.
The name that comes to mind when thinking about trade targets to fit the team would be Washington Wizards star, Bradley Beal. Beal is one of the elite scorers in the NBA and would be a perfect complement to Young as a second scorer and could alleviate some of the play-making duties from Young. Beal can opt-out of his contract after this season, so this move would not come without a level of risk.
What would it take to land Beal? A combination of young players and plenty of picks should suffice. Reddish, Okongwu, Johnson, and some first-round picks could be enough to sway the Wizards, who should be looking for high upside young players in any deal that might make involving Beal.
The Atlanta Hawks are a team that is on the rise and they arrived last season by making the Eastern Conference Finals. This is an elite young core led by Young, Collins, and Hunter and they should be a deeper team with some of their new additions. The expectation for this team is that they keep improving as a unit and are ready for another playoff run.
With that being said, it is possible that the Hawks are a better team than last season, but don’t advance to the conference finals again. If every team is healthy, it is hard to imagine that the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks won’t be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. If that happens, the Hawks would have to beat one of them in the semifinals and it is hard to see that happening this season, although Atlanta gave Milwaukee all they could handle last season. This will be a highly anticipated season in Atlanta to prove that their playoff run was not a fluke. They will prove that and be one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference and Young will be not just an All-Star, but an MVP candidate.
Season Prediction: 53-29 and win the Southeast division
Follow Jackson Caudell on Twitter @jacksoncaudell
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images