The Atlanta Hawks, in the coming season, look to continue their rebuilding process around emerging young stars Trae Young, John Collins, and the new ones they just drafted. While the team seems to be moving in the right direction under coach Lloyd Pierce and general manager Travis Schlenk after a big decline the season before, fans will have to continue to be patient. It is unlikely that the team will end its drought of 60 years without an NBA title, which came even before the team moved to Atlanta more than 50 years ago. But the Hawks could still be a fun team to watch.
Atlanta Hawks: 2018-2019 Year In Review
Like in 2017-18, the Atlanta Hawks finished in the last place in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division, but it was still a marked improvement over the year before when they catered after appearing in the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons. They finished the year 29-53, which was 5 more wins than the year before, and they finished 12th in the conference, moving up from 15th the year before.
Their key addition was point guard Trae Young, who was the 5th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Hawks controversially traded the rights to the 3rd pick in the draft, Luka Dončić, for him and a future 1st-round pick. While Dončić won Rookie of the Year and is a bonafide superstar, Young was also impressive, scoring 19.1 points per game, along with 8.1 assists per game, on the way to becoming, like Dončić, a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie First Team.
Also, impressive last season was the team’s 1st-round selection from the year before, power forward John Collins. While Collins was no slouch in his rookie year and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team, last year Collins almost doubled his scoring, from 10.5 points per game to 19.5 points per game while increasing his rebounding from 7.3 per game to 9.8 per game.
Atlanta Hawks: New Veterans
Among the many veterans that the Atlanta Hawks added to their roster in the off-season, here are the most significant.
Atlanta signed the former 1st-round draft pick in July after the Washington Wizards declined his $20 million option. Parker, who can play both forward positions, played for both Chicago and Washington last season. At the latter, he put up solid numbers, with 15 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Atlanta traded Solomon Hill, whom they acquired in a trade with New Orleans, and Miles Plumee to Memphis for Parsons, who has been plagued by injuries in recent years. But if the small forward can regain his health, he could be a valuable scoring option for the Hawks.
The Hawks traded Omari Spellman to Golden State to get Jones and a future 2nd-round draft pick. As a center, Jones was an enigma for the Warriors. He had enough talent to start last year for one of the most talented teams in the league, but he never produced much. It will now be up to Atlanta to tap his potential and help fill the void left by departing starting center Dewayne Dedmon.
Turner and his $18.6 million salaries came to the Hawks in a trade with Portland for the equally overpaid Kent Bazemore. His best days are likely past him, but he is still capable of getting hot now and then, making him a serviceable wingman off the bench.
The Hawks acquired Crabbe from Brooklyn in a salary dump (he is making more than $18 million this season), which netted them some valuable draft picks. Like Turner, Crabbe is a serviceable wingman off the bench.
The Atlanta Hawks drafted the following three players in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Hunter was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 4th overall pick in the draft. The Lakers then traded him to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis deal, and New Orleans traded him to Atlanta along with Solomon Hill for 3 2019 draft picks.
Hunter, who is a 6’7” 225 lb small forward from the University of Virginia can play a variety of positions, won a slew of awards last year, including:
- Second-team All-American (NABC)
- Third-team All-American (AP, USBWA, and SN)
- NABC Defensive Player of the Year
- First-team All-ACC
- ACC Defensive Player of the Year
What’s more, he played for the national champion Cavaliers and brought a winning attitude to a team that has not seen much winning in recent years.
Reddish was picked 6 selections after Hunter. As Hunter, the 6’8” 208 lb small forward from Duke is versatile and can play a variety of positions. While he did not put up huge numbers during his one season at the school, every rating service gave him a score of 5.
On draft day, general manager Travis Schlenk said that the team would ignore positions and draft the best players available, and he meant it. Reddish and Hunter — along with 2018 1st-round draft pick Kevin Huerter — play the same position but also could play all over the court, giving the team a slick shooting lineup similar to the one Schlenk had when he was the assistant general manager of Golden State.
Philadelphia selected Fernando with the 34th pick of the draft before trading him to Atlanta. The 6’7” 237 lb power forward is originally from Angola and played college basketball at the University of Maryland, where he won several awards last year, including First-team All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Defensive team.
Fernando was projected by some to be a mid-1st-round pick, but he fell to the 2nd round because his game is considered raw at the moment. But he brings plenty of upside for the Hawks in the future.
With lots of youth and versatility, the starting lineup for the Atlanta Hawks will likely be more fluid than it will be for most teams around the league. They have to both replace center Dewayne Dedmon and put all their considerable young talent on the floor at the same time. Because of this, and because of Schlenk’s background in Golden State, the following starting 5 is a strong possibility:
Trae Young, Point Guard
Kevin Huerter, Shooting Guard
Cam Reddish, Small Forward
De’Andre Hunter, Power Forward
John Collins, Center
While small, a starting lineup such as this would give the Hawks a potent offense, especially as all five of these players can hit 3-pointers very well. They could be formidable defensively as well, apart from Young, who at the moment is a bit one-dimensional.
The key players off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks include (in alphabetical order):
DeAndre’ Bembry, Shooting Guard
Vince Carter, Shooting Guard
Allen Crabbe, Shooting Guard
Bruno Fernando, Power Forward
Damian Jones, Center
Jabari Parker, Power Forward
Chandler Parsons, Small Forward
Evan Turner, Shooting Guard
One of the Hawks’ most important signings in the offseason was re-signing guard Vince Carter. Playing in his 22nd season in the league, Carter is no longer the dominant player he once was, but his experience and leadership will be invaluable on a team so young. Anything he adds on the court will only be a plus.
It would not be surprising if several players on this list, including Parker, Parsons, and Jones, regularly find themselves in the starting lineup at some point in the season.
Atlanta Hawks: Strengths And Weaknesses
One of the Atlanta Hawks’ biggest strengths is also its biggest weakness: its youth. Their young players could bring a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, but they are also likely to make lots of mistakes. Their success and failure may largely rest in the hands of head coach Lloyd Pierce. Now in his second season, the 43-year-old Pierce had never been a head coach before at any level of basketball. His ability to mold all the Hawks’ young talent into a team may determine whether the Hawks become the east-coast version of the Warriors or just another in a long line of busts. This is another reason why the re-signing of Carter is so important to the team’s success. Only one year younger than Pierce, he can aid Pierce greatly.
On the court, last season shooting, defense, and rebounding were all weaknesses for the team. At least on paper, all the components are there for them to dramatically improve in all three areas, to the extent that they can all be strengths of the team.
Atlanta Hawks: Projections
It would be easy to predict an incremental improvement for the Atlanta Hawks this season, similar to what they experienced a year ago. But this group of talented young players, playing in a poor division and an equally poor conference, can help the team improve at a far greater increment. A 40+- win season is, therefore, a distinct possibility, along with a playoff spot, and in a few years, they could very well be challenging the Bucks for supremacy in the East.