The Atlanta Hawks were mid-game, when the NBA hiatus drama began to unfold. Despite Trae Young’s 42 points and 11 assists, the Hawks ultimately lost to the Knicks 136-131, in what could possibly have been their last game of the season. With the season in hiatus, it is time to take a look at what the Hawks future will look like with a 21-year-old Trae Young at the helm?
The Hawks Core:
The Atlanta Hawks have certainly gone about their rebuild by building through the draft. In 2017, Atlanta drafted Power Forward John Collins out of Wake Forest. Collins flew mostly under the radar in his first year, despite averaging a solid 10 points per game. Since then, he has improved his game drastically to where he is now averaging 20 and 10 on an efficient 57% from the field. With his athleticism and improved shot, Collins projects to be the Hawks’ power forward of the future.
In 2018, the Hawks traded third overall pick, Luka Doncic, for the fifth pick in Trae Young. The question surrounding him and the organization has been: should the Hawks have taken Doncic? Only time will tell, but at the moment we can all just marvel at the play of Young. He started off his rookie campaign slow averaging 16 PPG prior to the all star break on an abysmal 31/40/80 shooting splits. After that all-star break, however, Trae has been fantastic, ending his rookie season on a strong note, and averaging 30.0 ppg, 9.2 apg, and 4.4 rpg on 44/38/86 shooting splits this season. Trae is also top two in the league in both point and assists, a feat that no NBA player has accomplished since “Tiny” Nate Archibald in the 1972-73 season.
The big question mark surrounding Trae Young, however, is his defense. Last season, Young was dead last in Defensive Real Plus Minus, and although his defense has improved this season, he is still one of the worst defenders in the league. Young is the Hawks’ franchise player, and when it is all said and done, may go down as one of the best Hawks in franchise history.
Much overshadowed by Trae Young but very solid is Kevin Huerter, who the Hawks selected with the 19th overall pick in 2018. Huerter has turned into a solid third scoring option behind Young and Collins. He is currently averaging 12 PPG this season on 39% from three, but most importantly, he is taking some of the scoring pressure off Trae. That being said, if the Hawks want to compete for a championship, they will need a more reliable third option. However, Huerter is a pure scorer who will be an important role player for the Hawks in the future.
Last year, the Hawks moved up in the draft to select De’Andre Hunter out of Virginia with the fourth overall pick. It was clear that the Hunter selection was to fill Atlanta’s biggest void: defense. He was said by many scouts to be the best perimeter defender in the class. With his quickness and 7’2 wingspan, Hunter is able to play the 2, 3, or 4 for the Hawks. He projects to be a reliable 3 and D guy, who can help make up for teammates’ lack of defense.
Later on, with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft, the Hawks took Cam Reddish out of Duke. Reddish, much like Trae, began his rookie year terribly. He shot an abysmal 28% from the field in the first two months of the season. 2020, however, brought a whole new Cam Reddish. Since then, he has averaged 12 PPG on a phenomenal 40% from three. Yet, his defense has been the most consistent part of his game. In the win over the Heat on February 20th, Reddish poked the ball away from Goran Dragic with 35 seconds remaining, and drove the length of the court to give the Hawks a late-game lead. Reddish and Hunter will most likely never become stars in this league, but both have proved they are can be solid role players who are only going to improve.
Given that the Hawks have been in a rebuild, it’s been difficult for them to attract many free agents. Right before the trade deadline, however, the Atlanta Hawks made a significant move to acquire Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets. Being only 25 years old, Capela fits the timeline of the Hawks perfectly. In addition, he is locked up for the next four years, and given his production, he is on a very affordable contract, making no more than 18 million a year. His play style thrived with James Harden as an athletic rim-running big man. In pick-and-rolls, with Harden drawing much of the attention, Capela was able to get to the rim and catch alley-oops from Harden. With Trae Young being such an offensive threat from both outside and going down hill, Capela will continue to thrive in being able to catch and finish passes from Young as well.
Anthony Edwards, Georgia:
While this upcoming draft class is very point guard heavy, there is one player that will perfectly fit in with the Atlanta Hawks and possibly be a key piece of the puzzle for them. 6’5” guard out of the university of Georgia and native of Atlanta, Anthony Edwards has proved himself as a great two-way player in college.
Edwards is a bit of a gunner, and his mix of power and athleticism, with a decent shot would play extremely well next to Young’s finesse and shooting. On the defensive end, Edwards is an above average defender, that will be able to guard the opposing team’s best guard. It is clear that he is the best fit for the Hawks in this draft, however, Edwards is currently projected to go number one overall. The Hawks currently have the third worst record in the league, and will need to get lucky to be able to get him.
Even if Atlanta does not land the first overall pick, they should consider trading up a few spots to draft Edwards. While it is no easy task to trade up to one and the Hawks will most likely have to give up Huerter and possibly future picks, Edwards would fit so perfectly that it would be worth it for them.
Deni Avdija, Israel
Deni Avdija, a 6’9” forward who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv overseas could be another option. His passing ability is elite, as is his shooting. These traits could allow him to star as the Hawks’ secondary playmaker behind Young. The Israeli forward also projects as a solid defender, especially since he can defend multiple positions. This upcoming draft for the Hawks will prove important in giving them a brighter future.
Although they are far from being championship contenders, if the Hawks can land a stud in this year’s draft, and their young core continues to develop well, the Larry O´Brian Trophy could make its way back to Atlanta.
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