The 2021 Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Projected Starting Lineup: C: Clint Capela - Onyeka Okongwu PF: John Collins - Danilo Gallinari SF: De'Andre Hunter - Cam Reddish SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic - Kevin Huerter PG: Trae Young - Rajon Rondo - Kris Dunn

I heard somewhere that Gallinari, despite being paid 20 million dollars a year to do so, is expected to come off the bench to start the regular season. Whether that actually happens, we'll see, but either way, both Gallo and Collins will probably get at least 32 minutes, however it works out.

The Hawks are a pretty tough team to project, as they were pretty bad, going 20-47 last year, but I don't think it was necessarily because of a lack of talent, just a team full of young players that are all trying to figure things out together. Last year no one over the age of 22 played more than 1000 minutes for them. Bembry, 25, at 915 minutes was the closest. While I can't help but pull my hair out at a team that spent so much time developing their roster and then making big moves the year before the most hyped-up draft class in a long time and a massive free agency in the upcoming off-season, what's done is done, and all we can do now is analyse what they have at their disposal.

I think people are a little tentative to get excited about a team that was so bad last year, and didn't do much except add complementary pieces during the break, but I think this team is able to potentially crack the top 6 in the East, which most people seem to think is impenetrable by all except possibly the Pacers. I am a strong believer in Trae Young, last season while he was on the court the Hawks were at an offensive rating of 112.82 (+2.72 over league average) with, well, not a lot of guys that were league average offensive players. Their big problem was who was running the show while Young was off the court and Damian Jones being their only center. Huerter and Bembry were the main initiators with Trae out, neither who were ever projected to be able to handle that an NBA level in their careers, and they lead Atlanta to a 95.02 offensive rating combined. The last team to have a season with an offensive rating below 100 were the Process 76ers, and the non-Young 2020 Hawks were the worst offensive team of the decade. Remember, this is an offence that was above league average with Young on the court. I'm not a fan of Rondo, but there's one thing he can still do and that's orchestrate an offence. As long as he's engaged, he is an absolutely tremendous acquisition to stop the bleeding while Young sits. While Capela was there last year, he never actually suited up and drafting Okongwu this year should immediately make him one of the best off-the-bench centers. No hate toward Damian Jones but those two will vastly improve the Hawks defensively.

The trio of John Collins/Kevin Hunter/Trae Young actually had a net positive rating last year of +0.26. That might not make your eyes pop, but the rest of the Hawks, while the three of them were out, were -14.48 which is as bad as it gets in the NBA. Instead of Collins/Hunter/Young primarily being on the court with Huerter and Cam Reddish (the 5 of whom were +5.77 on the court together and an ORTG of 120.75), who will likely be the 7th to 9th men in the rotation this year, and Damian Jones at C who is barely hanging on in the league, they have two solid NBA starters joining them in 2021, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela (+Gallo who might be their second best player).

A lot of critics look at their defense as a major flaw of this team, but I personally think they'll be okay. Capela is a positive defender, and Okongwu has the potential to be an all-defensive guy some time in his career. Hunter and Reddish are really good, and should only improve with another year of experience under their belt. The latter part of that could hopefully be applied to Young, too. Make no mistakes, he is terrible on that end, but if he can just give up one less possession a game to get by him from an atrocious display of defending, that can be enough to swing a few games over the course of a season. And then they have Kris Dunn, who I personally think is the best perimetre defender in the entire NBA. He's out with a knee injury to start the season, but if they find a way to integrate him without making his complete lack of an offensive game exploitable, he could add a lot to picking up Trae's slack. Like I said, they're not world-beaters, but I could see it being a top-20 defence, which, if you pair with a very good offence, I like how they look.

Most seem to have them penciled in for a team around .500, but I personally think that's the bar for them. I would not be shocked to see them hit 40 wins (72 game season) and potentially land on a 6th seed, avoiding the play-in games, and worst case scenario they're 9th. Realistically they are the 8th seed with Indiana still holding on ahead of them, but Hawks have a lot of upside. All my data was sourced from either basketball-reference.com and pbpstats.com, written by W. Smith.


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