Someday in July, the web unanimously topped the Atlanta Hawks as basketball’s latest darlings — everyone’s favourite upstart, League Move-worthy, fun-as-heck roster that might shock the world and make a postseason bid via high-tempo and athletically electrical hoops. Though such claims could, in fact, be untimely — at coronary heart, the game does love a great underdog story and the Hawks have all the trimmings of a cult basic.
Basketball Insiders kicked off its annual season previews once more this week — and, as all the time, they’re among the most complete, detailed appears round. When you missed the grand opening, you’ll be able to try the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls already. In a while, our group will sort out the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and everyone else by the point October rolls round.
However, for now, the main target is on Atlanta, Trae Younger, John Collins and the pressures of constructing that subsequent large leap.
FIVE GUYS THINK…
The Hawks — together with the Pelicans — are probably the most fascinating group within the NBA – to me no less than. They’d a terrific second-half of 2018-19 and may see pretty substantial good points given their youth. Trae Younger lived as much as all the hype he generated two years in the past at Oklahoma and he’ll proceed to dazzle this season. The remainder of their beginning lineup is extremely well-rounded and – on paper – suits collectively nearly completely. The additions of De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando add important younger expertise, whereas Evan Turner, Alex Len and Jabari Parker add extra expert veterans to the roster. And, in fact, the return of Vince Carter ensures a savvy veteran presence. The Hawks have nearly an excessive amount of depth.
They are going to proceed to wrestle as they develop into themselves and learn to win on the highest of ranges. However we should always see appreciable enchancment on the 29 wins they posted in 2018-19. The principle problem for head coach Lloyd Pierce will likely be managing minutes and holding his roster proud of enjoying time, together with the rising expectations.
third place – Southeast Division
– Drew Maresca
There’s quite a lot of expectations being placed on the Hawks. Regardless of a file with solely 29 wins, it was the proper definition of what a developmental season needs to be. Trae Younger began out with some struggles, however in the end got here into his personal and labored his magic. When John Collins returned, he was a double-double machine. Except for DeAndre’ Bembry, these are the one younger ones left, as longtime Atlanta favourite Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince had been each moved this summer season. Normal supervisor Travis Schlenk determined to usher in a couple of veterans to assist, along with drafting three legit rookies in De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando. Lloyd Pierce will proceed to excel and mature his roster – and there gained’t be a backside tier end – however playoffs aren’t fairly a given for this author.
third Place – Southeast Division
– Spencer Davies
The Hawks have one of many highest upside groups within the NBA proper now. Trae Younger is a budding star. John Collins is likely to be one too. Level guard might be the hardest place within the league to play and Younger has all of the instruments to be an elite playmaker. Collins has looming potential as an elite defensive participant, however he can rating the ball as effectively — particularly with Younger feeding him the ball. They’d a stable draft too, and each De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish ought to get significant minutes immediately, however growth is the important thing for them this season. They might combat for a low playoff seed within the Jap Convention, however so long as they present some true development, that’s all that issues.
third Place – Southeast Division
– David Yapkowitz
The Atlanta Hawks had a busy offseason, making too many strikes to cowl utterly on this quick blurb. To maintain it quick, the Hawks added De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, Chandler Parsons, Jabari Parker, Damian Jones, whereas shifting on from Dewayne Dedmon, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Omari Spellman, Miles Plumlee, Deyonta Davis, Jaylen Adams. I like Hunter as a prospect, however I don’t assume I’d have traded the 17th choose and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ protected 2020 choose to draft Hunter fourth general.
Nonetheless, I did like Atlanta taking Reddish with the 10th general choose since I believe his recreation is a lot better suited to the NBA than it’s for the faculty recreation. I’m not an enormous fan of the phrases of the Jabari Parker contract because the Hawks gave him a participant possibility on the second season. If Parker has an enormous season and passes on his participant choices, the Hawks have restricted skill to retain him. Having stated that, the group continues so as to add extra younger expertise to an thrilling core of prospects and can have a ton of cap flexibility subsequent season.
third Place – Southeast Division
– Jesse Blancarte
The Hawks have been following the Golden State Warriors’ blueprint for 2 offseasons now and the outcomes have been fairly stable. The Hawks amassed a ton of property in taking over dangerous cap cash with the intention to enable themselves to money in on draft prospects they strongly favored. This summer season, not solely did they get two that match the present roster — however the additions might increase it in a method that will get them significantly within the playoff hunt this 12 months. If Trae Younger continues to determine the NBA recreation, he may very well be a borderline All-Star, John Collins is already a borderline All-Star, however including De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish to the squad makes the longer term appears extremely shiny — shiny sufficient to assume perhaps the Hawks might win 30 or extra video games this season. The Hawks are nonetheless on the surface wanting in, however which may not be the case for lengthy if the younger guys gel rapidly.
4th Place – Southeast Division
– Steve Kyler
FROM THE CAP GUY
The Hawks are the lone group within the NBA with any actual cap room, at roughly $7 million (earlier than signing Vince Carter as rumored). Search for Atlanta to buy that cap room in a commerce earlier than the season begins, presumably to tackle extra undesirable wage together with draft concerns as compensation. If not, Atlanta could take that area all the way in which to the commerce deadline.
The group can signal DeAndre’ Bembry and Damian Jones to contract extensions earlier than the beginning of the season. The group will undoubtedly take the group choices on Trae Younger, John Collins and Kevin Huerter earlier than November. Trying ahead to subsequent summer season, the Hawks might have as much as $80 million in spending energy so as to add to their rising core.
– Eric Pincus
TOP OF THE LIST
Prime Offensive Participant: Trae Younger
In accordance with many unfair onlookers, Trae Younger was thought-about referred to as a bust earlier than he ever stepped on the court docket, largely because of the hype round Luka Doncic — final 12 months’s eventual, inevitable Rookie of the 12 months and the phenom that Younger was dealt for on draft evening. And though Younger started gradual, he steadily adjusted to the pace of pro-level competitors, discovered his groove after which lit the league on fireplace. Following the February break, Younger seemed the a part of a future famous person, pulling up from throughout behind the arc — his money-maker throughout that sole stint at Oklahoma the 12 months prior — and even made a late, legit push for that aforementioned award.
From Feb. 22 on, Younger tallied 20 or extra factors in 17 of the Hawks’ closing 22 contests. All in all, the soon-to-be 21-year-old completed with a promising common of 19.1 factors, Eight.1 assists and three.7 rebounds per recreation.
Even higher, the unwieldy, turnover-prone efforts ought to occur far much less after his first full offseason — however by no means concern: Younger, with out query, is an offensive show-stopper with an All-Star-level ceiling.
Prime Defensive Participant: De’Andre Hunter
Shockingly, the Hawks’ greatest defensive participant already could be De’Andre Hunter, a 21-year-old, 6-foot-7 do-it-all protector. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta didn’t have a single participant in 2018-19 with a standout defensive ranking and many of the names excessive on the listing both performed little or no or are not with the group. Jeremy Lin, over 19.7 minutes per recreation, tallied a defensive ranking of 107.7 and now he’s again in China, leaving Vince Carter and DeAndre’ Bembry as one of the best remaining property.
So, proper, Hunter: He’s an NCAA champion, a former second-team All-American, the reigning Defensive Participant of the 12 months in each the ACC and NABC — even higher, he needs to be able to contribute from day one. Though his counting statistics in each steals and blocks don’t seem noteworthy, Hunter can defend within the paint and on the perimeter, in a position and keen to change on screens and persist with his opposition too. For a group that bled factors each evening and completed with a defensive ranking of 113.1 (28th-worst), Hunter is a right away rotation piece and hopeful game-changer.
If something, Atlanta can solely go upwards from final season — that alone will give Hunter the room to shine as soon as once more.
Prime Playmaker: Trae Younger
After all, calling Younger one of many league’s most-impressive, younger playmakers would in some way be a disservice to his penchant for bucket-scoring euphoria. Regardless of questions surrounding his measurement and effectivity — and nonetheless needing to make main strides within the latter — Younger was must-watch tv when he bought sizzling. And there could also be no higher instance than one jaw-dropping efficiency wherein Younger dropped 49 factors and 16 assists on 17-for-33 from the ground and 46.2 % from deep. A couple of weeks later, Younger tossed 16 assists to only a single turnover; which was additionally his fifth and closing effort with 13 or extra dimes throughout a rookie season that solely appeared to rise.
Watching Younger could be an infectious exercise — with pace to burn and a lightning-fast set off finger, the ceiling is already tantalizingly grand. Between holding opposing defenders on skates and discovering the open teammate, Younger is ready to befuddle head coaches for years and years to come back. Amongst all rookies, Younger completed second in factors and first in assists per recreation — moreover, the one gamers in your entire league that tallied extra of the latter final season had been stalwart an All-Star-worthy trio of Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Russell Westbrook.
Prime Clutch Participant: John Collins
For now, each John Collins and Younger will share the throne on this all-important class till anyone can handle to separate themselves this season. Younger, though by no means afraid of the large second, had bouts of inefficiency and the Hawks trailed so typically that his collegiate-level insanity couldn’t peak at a constant price till the tip of the 12 months. However, as talked about, that springtime star left many with a style of simply how particular Younger may very well be sometime. Once more, when he bought sizzling, there have been few gamers extra unguardable than Younger.
On 24 completely different events, Younger hit three or extra three-pointers in a contest. He scored greater than 30 factors 9 occasions and was the proprietor of magical moments like this and this. Increase these highlights to people who made him a nation-wide hero as a Sooner and, in fact, his clutch gene is simple. With gained knowledge, energy and an evolving supporting solid, it’s honest to count on Younger to succeed in (and beat) much more of these high-pressure conditions in 2019-20.
However Collins, too, deserves point out as one of many Hawks’ key-building blocks. Due to a late surge in reputation, Collins generated some deserved All-Star bid buzz and, fortunately, he ought to solely proceed to soar from right here. At 21 years outdated, Collins is an athletic, stretchy ahead with all of the offensive instruments of a future unicorn. The 6-foot-10 high-flyer scored 19.5 factors and 9.Eight rebounds per recreation, even increasing his three-point vary to a fairly thrilling zero.9 makes at a 34.Eight % price as effectively. Younger’s flashier, deep-range attraction is tough to look previous, however Collins’ skill to get a much-needed bucket or contest-clinching exclamation level just isn’t one thing to sleep on both. Collins could also be an All-Star for the subsequent decade or so — and if he offers extra moments like this, it’ll be almost unimaginable to disagree.
The Unheralded Participant: Kevin Huerter
It’s arduous to consider that Kevin Huerter is likely to be thought-about unheralded, however with Younger and Collins, deservingly, in the principle stage spotlights, right here we’re. To wit, Huerter owns the much-needed consistency trait that Younger should try to search out in 12 months two, plus a improbable 38.5 % mark from three-point vary. Out of faculty, the 6-foot-7 first-rounder was pegged as one of the best three-point taking pictures risk in your entire class — to this point, Huerter has begun to stay as much as that hype and extra already.
Amongst rookies, Huerter’s 1.Eight three-pointers per recreation had been fourth-best, solely trailing Landry Shamet, Doncic and Younger. On the share facet of proceedings, it was simply Collin Sexton, Alonzo Trier and Shamet to beat him there too. Moreover, Huerter performed in 75 video games and notched 12 or extra factors in 26 of them, topping out with a powerful, red-hot January efficiency of 29 factors on 5-for-Eight from three-point vary. Whilst a 21-year-old, Huerter has confirmed early that he’s a shoulder value leaning on. Evaluating him to Klay Thompson is maybe a bit too straightforward — since, duh, Thompson is a three-time champion, one of many best three-point shooters of all-time and a member of the All-Defensive Second Crew at present — however Huerter has proven promise as a fringe defender as effectively. As Kyler identified above, the Hawks have adopted the Warriors’ team-building blueprints and Huerter appears like a robust slot in that sense.
For a group that desperately wants playmakers on the defensive finish, Huerter’s 6-foot-Eight wingspan will make him a gradual, dependable cog — if not a lot, rather more — for years to come back. If Younger and Collins are the compelling forces of potential stardom, Huerter could be the key sauce that’ll maintain all of it collectively.
Finest New Addition: De’Andre Hunter
Rapidly, the main target returns to the aforementioned De’Andre Hunter, who has a particular alternative to be a ready-to-go, NBA-made contributor from day one. Over his 4 seasons at Virginia — capped off with a net-cutting championship final spring — Hunter turned collegiate basketball’s greatest man-to-man defender. If that expertise transfers over to the infinitely sooner NBA — and it ought to, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound power is already 21 — then Hunter is a dose of drugs the Hawks badly want.
Final season, Atlanta owned an almost satisfactory offensive unit — though the league-wide rank says in a different way — however with Younger, Huerter, Collins and others concerned, that ought to come as no shock. Sadly, the protection was past cataclysmic. With that downright dangerous ranking of 113.1, the 28th-ranked squad simply leaked factors in each attainable method at almost each attainable alternative. Hunter can’t resolve all these questions instantly, however he’ll absolutely assist push Atlanta up towards the center of the pack, an affordable objective that may go far of their efforts to make the playoffs in a weaker convention. Scroll again up if you happen to’ve already forgotten his laundry-list of collegiate honors and Hunter can flat-out defend, a trait that compelled the Hawks’ palms early on within the draft.
With the other-Cavaliers, Hunter averaged 15.2 factors, 5.1 rebounds on 43.Eight % from three-point vary, whereas his measurement and energy ought to enable him to protect three positions on the skilled degree. Throughout the Nationwide Championship, Hunter exploded for 27 factors on Eight-for-16 and thrived on the game’s largest stage and brightest second. Given their imminent offensive firepower, Hunter will likely be concentrated primarily on shutting down the opposition’s greatest participant — but when his collegiate resume is any indication, it gained’t be lengthy earlier than he’s an impression participant within the NBA both.
– Ben Nadeau
Who We Like
1. Allen Crabbe + Evan Turner
Clearly, the Hawks are a roster absolutely run by their up-and-coming children — however the veterans are not any slouches both. Allen Crabbe — acquired in a pre-draft transfer for Taurean Prince — was harm for a lot of final season, however he’s the proprietor of a number of three-point seasons with a share over 37 or higher — three to be precise. If he’s wholesome, Crabbe can have loads of room to let fly in Atlanta’s fast-trigger, high-scoring offense. Moreover, Evan Turner, a former teammate of Crabbe’s in Portland, has been maligned in recent times for his bloated contract, however he’ll be nice match — 6.Eight factors, four.5 rebounds and three.9 assists in 2018-19 — because the Hawks’ second-unit chief and flooring normal.
three. Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons is round and kicking too following his midsummer transfer from Memphis. Parsons, now 30, hasn’t performed greater than 35 video games since 2015-16, however the large deal that’ll pay him $25 million this season is ready to run out subsequent summer season — so the once-uber-promising shooter can have one thing to show. Giving Parsons the basic if-healthy caveat is a harmful recreation — if not utterly naive at this level — however we’re keen to take a closing spin on the Parsons Specific.
four. Vince Carter
Vince Carter, maybe surprisingly, is returning to Atlanta for one more experience this season, able to play constant minutes and mentor the cornerstones somewhat than obtain spot minutes for a contender. Many playoff-ready rosters had been desirous about Carters’ companies in July, however the will-be 22-year veteran stays in his stewardship position — a place that many, many younger Hawks appreciated all 12 months lengthy. He’s not Half-Man, Half-Superb however Carter is a crucial a part of Atlanta’s tradition and material, so he belongs right here as a lot as anyone else.
5. Bruno Fernando
Cam Reddish will probably wrestle as a uncooked, slender 20-year-old — however one other rookie, former Terrapin Bruno Fernando, provides an intriguing have a look at the Hawks’ long-term plans at middle. Albeit inconsistent, Fernando ceaselessly put up lottery-worthy efforts over two years at Maryland — as a substitute, the Hawks snagged him at No. 34 general. At 6-foot-10, Fernando is one other rim-protecting diamond within the tough that averaged 13.Eight factors, 10.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks over 34 contests final season. After shedding Dwayne Dedmon to the Kings this summer season, Fernando is a past fascinating watch off the bench.
– Ben Nadeau
As talked about, the Hawks haven’t struggled to attain in a sizzling minute — that’s by no means been doubtful. Though the offensive ranking, probably affected by the porous protection, was unspectacular, it was head coach Lloyd Pierce’s first 12 months on the job, flanked by spectacular, however uncooked, skills. The Hawks’ 113.three factors per recreation had been the 13th-highest mark within the league and their warp-speed tempo of 104.56 was the quickest of any in 2018-19. Led by Younger and Huerter’s mixed complete of 11.7 three-pointers per recreation, the Hawks completed within the prime 5 in each makes an attempt (37, third-highest) and complete conversations (16.1 made, fourth-best).
In factors off turnovers, the Atlanta did effectively too, notching a serviceable 17 factors per recreation, 11th-highest final season — they, too, completed in the identical spot for steals league-wide at Eight.2 throughout each contest. Including Hunter to the combination ought to solely enhance the roster in that regard and, for a group headed by 4 sub-22-year-olds, it’s a powerful feat irrespective of the way you slice it.
Given the assumed development by cornerstones like Younger, Collins and Huerter — and no main offensive departures this offseason — the Hawks ought to proceed to just do nice there once more.
– Ben Nadeau
Earlier than diving into the defensive-related worries, the turnovers had been a result-plaguing situation for the Hawks too. At 17 turnovers per recreation, the Atlanta Hawks led the league in giveaways in 2018-19, handily beating out second-placed Los Angeles too.
Given Younger’s high-usage for a rookie level guard, it’s not honest to tag him with all the sloppy blame — nevertheless it was a priority for him out of Oklahoma as effectively. Naturally, these tasked with each scoring and playmaking for others will typically have higher-than-usual totals — see: Russell Westbrook. Nonetheless, Younger tossed away 4 or extra turnovers 42 occasions as a first-year skilled. Worse, he reached the six-turnover plateau — with a season-high of 9 — in 18 of these contests.
Solely James Harden, Devin Booker and Westbrook averaged extra turnovers than Younger final season — two of whom are current MVPs and sure Corridor of Famers — and he struggled ceaselessly with it in Division-I two years in the past. There are nice odds that his tallies, as he matures and bulks up, will subside, nevertheless it’s a transparent weak spot in an in any other case promising offense.
Defensively, they’ve bought loads of room to enhance, particularly with Hunter now in tow. The Hawks allowed the third-most three-pointers per recreation at 12.four throughout 2018-19 and opponents put up 49.three factors within the paint as effectively, which means that they had been getting scored on from nearly in all places. Atlanta’s defensive ranking — as a reminder: 113.Eight, 28th-worst — couldn’t cease a chair from scoring on most nights and had been solely beat out in futility by the Suns and Cavaliers.
If they honestly aspire to be a postseason-bound squad, that’ll have to enhance on protection in a rush.
– Ben Nadeau
THE BURNING QUESTION
Can the Atlanta Hawks make the playoffs in 2019-20?
Properly, in all probability not.
Nonetheless, even being within the hypothetical dialog is value some factors on advantage alone. Due to some savvy entrance workplace transactions, promising up-and-comers and a contemporary, sensible NBA offense, the Hawks are nearer to that objective than ever. Even when they don’t find yourself in a closing Jap Convention playoff spot, reaching the ninth or tenth slot on the ladder could be a welcomed enchancment. Bye-bye to the cellar, most definitely, if that’s an satisfactory comfort prize too.
They’ll stay thrilling. Younger will proceed to get terrifyingly-hot and unrelentingly chilly. Collins will maintain reaching for rim-rattling stardom and Huerter would be the glue that makes the entire prepare rolling on — regardless, as of now, it’s a serious ask for further springtime video games. Give Reddish, Fernando and Hunter a 12 months to totally discover their footing, let Younger chop these turnover numbers in half and provides Collins the liberty to do no matter he needs — then the race for the postseason will really be on.
In the end, the protection will doom far too most of the Hawks’ robust offensive performances to make this query any greater than wishful considering in September. However there’s nothing that all of us love greater than a great story and Atlanta owns the makings of 1. Come the All-Star break, or perhaps even earlier, it’ll be straightforward to inform if the Hawks are on the cusp of breaking via or if some endurance must be afforded.
Both method, remodeling a cellar-dweller doesn’t occur in a single day — nevertheless, it’s by no means been extra apparent that the Hawks are on the best path again.
– Ben Nadeau