This Atlanta Hawks team is genuinely exciting. With easily the best young core in the NBA (average age of 24 years) and made up with some of the most exciting young players in the league, the Hawks have the potential to push for the last playoff seed in the East even though their best years are yet to come. With a crafty ball-handler, passer and shooter in Trae Young, an incredibly athletic and quickly improving John Collins, and two highly rated rookies in De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, Atlanta are a must-watch team and a dark-horse in the East.
First and foremost, the Hawks were the winners of the 2019 NBA Draft. They took advantage of Brooklyn’s salary dumping to acquire Allen Crabbe, a decent role player, along with Pick #17 and a ‘20 protected 1st Rd for Taurean Prince and a ’21 2nd Rd. This in itself is a solid trade, but it also allowed the Hawks to pool Picks 8, 17, 35 and a ’20 Cavs 1st Rd and send them off to the Pelicans for Picks 4 and 57, and Solomon Hill (a trade that will be spoken about for years to come). With their picks, Atlanta picked up De’Andre Hunter (Pick 4), Cam Reddish (Pick 10), and Bruno Fernando (Pick 34).
At 21, De’Andre Hunter is a versatile and NBA ready rookie who was considered the best overall defender in the draft. Since the Hawks were one of the worst teams defensively last season, and will most likely continue to be, Hunter will fill that gap and hence play an important role throughout the season. At 6’8” he can defend well against Point Guards through to Power Forwards, and with some improvements in his scoring capabilities, could push for a Rookie of the Year nomination.
In the shadows of the Duke titans Zion and RJ, Cam Reddish became a very underappreciated talent, and it showed as he slipped to Atlanta at Pick 10. Once projected as a top 5 pick, Atlanta did well to secure yet another versatile and athletic physical specimen. While Hunter is primarily a great defender, Reddish is a dynamic offensive option, which could prove to be a quality pairing. Without playing second fiddle to Zion and RJ, Reddish has the potential to flourish.
Moving on from the draft, Hawks had a relatively quiet free agency. They traded stalwart Kent Bazemore to Portland for Evan Turner, essentially a straight swap of overpaid wing guards. They took on the terrible contract of Chandler Parsons (a contract that will go down as one of the worst in NBA history), however with the cap space to do so, this risk may actually work out for the Hawks.
To perhaps make up for this, the Hawks signed Jabari Parker to a 2-year/$13m contract. For a former 2nd Pick in the draft, who has shown some recent improvement and promise, this is HUGELY underpriced, especially seeing as Parker will be Atlanta’s starting Small Forward.
To round out the changes, Atlanta made a small trade to secure TWO TIME NBA CHAMPION…Damian Jones, a solid young Center who can be a great back up for Alex Len.
PG: Trae Young Evan Turner
SG: Allen Crabbe Kevin Huerter DeAndre’ Bembrey
SF: Jabari Parker De’Andre Hunter Cam Reddish
PF: John Collins Chandler Parsons
C: Alex Len Damian Jones Bruno Fernando
It is pretty clear that Atlanta has gone young and is looking to become an Eastern Conference powerhouse within the next 2-3 years. There is already so much exciting talent, and yet there is still so much promise and potential as well.
Trae Young post the All Star break had one of the most impressive stretches by a rookie in recent memory, and this form will no doubt continue into the next season with an even better supporting cast around him. His high-flying partner in John Collins, who also had an impressive second half of the season, is set to improve as well, and can be coupled with another athletic dunker in Jabari Parker, who will want to showcase his talents in a new market. Under this “Big 3” you have some quality shooters in Crabbe, Huerter, and to a lesser extent Chandler and Len, and most importantly the exciting rookie duo of Hunter and Reddish. This team is perfectly suited for the modern style of play, and they’re going to be ones to watch for the entire season.
However, with all the promise and young talent, there are concerns that will not doubt play a role in hindering the progression and success of the Hawks. Primarily, Trae Young is the only Point Guard the team has, and I can see him being slightly overloaded in that role. The only person other option at point is Evan Turner, but it seems unlikely that Turner will be efficient nor able to find many playing minutes on this squad.
The point guard issue stems from the Hawks having too many Shooting Guards and Small Forwards (if you include Turner and Parsons into this group, that is 8 of their 13 players). This could prove difficult to work around and will contribute to the already poor defensive capabilities of the team.
And on the topic of rotation, with so many rookies on the time, it will be difficult for all the young players to get the minutes they deserve to develop and improve. There is a lot of inexperience, and if there isn’t an even or fair spread of minutes spread amongst those players, the lack of experience will fast become a big issue for Atlanta.
Predicted Wins: 37. I genuinely believe Atlanta has the potential to sneak into that last seed. If their young talent can work well together, they definitely have the capability to cause an upset come April 2020.
How far Atlanta will go: 10th seed. Will miss playoffs by less than 5 games.
Best Player: Trae Young – could definitely push for an All Star spot if his form towards the end of last season is anything to go off. After averaging 19 points and 8 assists in his rookie season, I think he can definitely go 20 points and 10 assists this season.
Golden Nugget: De’Andre Hunter/Cam Reddish – I’m a big fan of both of these boys, and I strongly believe they can have some serious impact coming off the bench together. Hunter for All Rookie 1st Team, and Reddish for All Rookie 2nd Team.
Coach: Lloyd Pierce. This will be his second season as Atlanta’s coach, and I think he is to be commended for the job he has done so far. Atlanta was a surprisingly exciting team last season with an improvement of 5 wins, so this year I think he will easily allow this trend to continue. Before joining the Hawks, Pierce spent 5 years as an Assistant Coach at the ‘Trust the Process’ 76ers, with a focus on defence, so if their development with Pierce is anything to go by, Atlanta seem to be in very good hands.