Hawks

Young Hawks Core Disappoints in 1st Season Together

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The NBA regular season appears to be over. In an unprecedented turn of events, the league was forced to suspend all activity indefinitely. The next steps are still being worked out, leaving teams and fans in limbo. The average team had about 17 games left in the season at the time of suspension.

The Atlanta Hawks were one of the few teams that played 67 games. They finished that part of the season 20-47. There was a lot of hype around the team, and an expectation that they would compete for a low seed in a weakened East. Instead, they sit with the 14th seed, headed for the lottery. While it isn’t the result they wanted, the team has had a good run of success in the lottery recently.

The Hawks have relied on the draft to build their current roster. They’ve drafted John Collins, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish over the past three drafts. Hunter’s defensive flexibility and Reddish’s two-way potential provided the Hawks with the last two pieces to their prototypical modern starting lineup. The Hawks’ bench was weak, though, and fluctuated throughout the season due to trades and injuries.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The Hawks had high hopes coming into this season. After a string of successful drafts, they have built a solid young core that they believe can compete in years to come. After selecting Trae Young in last year’s draft, the team was expecting to have an exciting, competitive year, and possibly make a playoff push. Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly.

After just five games, John Collins was given a 25-game suspension that drastically shifted the Hawks’ season. They ended up going 4-21 during Collins’ absence. His return bolstered the team a bit, They went a good-for-them 13-23 with him back, but were already too far behind to make any sort of playoff push.

The team struggled with injuries to key players all season. No player played in all 67 games, and only three played in 60 or more. Seven of the top 10 Hawks in minutes per game were on the opening night roster, and they missed a combined 108 games.

The lone bright spot for the Hawks was Trae Young’s performance. Young shouldered a monumental load, finishing fourth in the league in usage rate. Young became the third Hawk to make 200+ three pointers in a season. He was near the top of the league in many offensive stats. He was second in total assists and assists per game, trailing LeBron James in both areas. Young was behind only James Harden in total points and free throws made. He also placed top-10 in Value Over Replacement Player, Offensive Box Plus-Minus, and Offensive Win Shares. Young’s effort was rewarded, as he became the seventh Hawk to be named an All-Star in their second year.

THE REMAINING SCHEDULE

The Hawks’ last 15 games were relatively light. They would’ve only played five games against teams in playoff position. They had two more back-to-backs scheduled, and both included one game at home and one away. The biggest challenge they faced was only having five home games left. As their health improved, it would have been a good time to establish some chemistry for next season.

The team probably would not have focused on winning down the stretch considering their position in the standings. They would’ve looked to maintain a lottery pick while making small improvements on the court. The team would’ve possibly gotten Clint Capela back from injury and attempted to integrate him into their systems. He would’ve added a premier vertical threat, rebounder and rim protector.

MOVING FORWARD

According to Tankathon, the team currently holds the 4th overall pick in next year’s draft. The draft is seen by many as top-heavy, and the Hawks’ pick could become a hot commodity on draft night. The team has made draft night moves before, most notably trading Luka Doncic for Trae Young. The front office has also shown aggressiveness on the trade market, snagging the aforementioned Capela in a four-team deal earlier this year. They could look to make a big splash by moving the pick.

The Hawks are also armed with a lot of cap space for the offseason. They have only eight players under contract for next season. They are poised to have an eventful free agency period, whenever it comes. The class doesn’t have a lot of top-tier established talent, but the team could fill key gaps in the roster from free agency. They have the money to lure stars, but may take a quantity over quality approach to solidify depth.

Overall, the Hawks have a lot of work ahead of them before they become the contenders they want to be. This offseason will be critical for the team. It could drastically shift their timeline for better or for worse. They have two cornerstone players in Trae Young and John Collins, and a solid start to their supporting cast. Health, depth and development should be the central focus of the team for now. When things return to normal, they should aim to fill out the roster with complementary pieces in free agency and aim to compete again next season.

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About Richmond Bailey Caldwell

Die-hard Grizzlies fan since 2009. Aspiring basketball writer and coach. University of Georgia sport management alum. Perennial first team all-defense selection.

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