The NBA season is approaching again, so it’s time for a 30-in-30. Today we will take a closer look at the Atlanta Hawks. With a very young selection, the Hawks are definitely a team to watch, but can they make all the playoffs?
For the Hawks it was a busy period around the draft. Two weeks before the draft the Hawks acquired the pick of the Brooklyn Nets together with Allen Crabbe, in exchange for Taurean Prince. In addition, the Hawks had three of their own draft picks (8, 10 and 35). However, only one of the four aforementioned picks remained with the Hawks. The eighth pick went to the New Orleans Pelicans, along with the 17th, 35th and a 2020 first round pick. In return, the Hawks got the fourth pick, a 2023 second round pick, Solomon Hill and the 57th pick. The 57th was later exchanged by the Hawks with the Philadelphia 76ers, for the 34th pick.
With the three picks the Hawks had left (4, 10 and 34), they chose De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando. Hunter is a swingman who played for two years at the University of Virginia. In the first year, Hunter scored ‘only’ nine points per game. In his sophomore season Hunter scored over 15 points per game. The swingman won the final of the NCAA Tournament with Virginia for the first time in school history. In the final against Texas Tech, Hunter impressed with 27 points, 9 rebounds and an equalizing three-point with 12 seconds to go in the last quarter. In the extension, Virginia finally came out on top.
Cam Reddish is also a swingman. Reddish played one season for Duke, where he was mainly in the shadow of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, the first and third pick of the draft. Reddish scored over thirteen points per game, but did so against a shot percentage of only 35.6%. A percentage that is more than ten percent lower than the average in the NBA. The third pick of the Hawks, Bruno Fernando, did shoot well above the NBA-average for the University of Maryland. The Angolan center shot almost 60% of his shots in the two years he played. With 13 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in his last year with Maryland, Fernando was an important pivot in coach Mark Turgeon’s team.
In free agency, the Hawks attracted only one player who is expected to make regular minutes. Jabari Parker signed a two-year contract, worth over $13 million. Vince Carter also extended his contract for another year. Carter goes for his 22nd (and last) NBA season, which brings him one year above Robert Parish. With 21 years in the NBA, Parish currently has the record to his name. The two biggest names that left Atlanta during the free agency are Dewayne Dedmon and Justin Anderson, who left for the Sacramento Kings and the Washington Wizards.
The Atlanta Hawks will have a very young selection just like last year. Alex Len will probably start as a center. The 26-year-old Ukrainian will be the oldest starter for the Hawks, indicating how young the rest of the team is. Kevin Huerter, 21 years old, will have the opportunity to shoot again after a strong rookie season. Rookie De’Andre Hunter will get the chance to take the small forward position.
The two players with the most attention will be John Collins and Trae Young. Just like last season, Collins will try to take big steps again. The power forward scored over 19 points per game and took almost 10 rebounds. A big improvement over the previous year, where he scored 10 points per game and took seven rebounds. Collins also improved from three-point distance, where he shot an average of one per game against a percentage of almost 35%. When it comes to three-pointers with the Hawks, the name Trae Young comes up. After two difficult months in his first NBA season, almost everything he touched turned into gold. In December, Young scored an average of 21 points and gave him more than eight assists per game. In addition, he shot more than two three-pointers per game, against a solid percentage of 35 percent.
From the couch, coach Lloyd Pierce has many versatile choices. Evan Turner can be used in different positions. Because the Hawks don’t have a second point guard, Turner will probably fill these minutes. Cam Reddish will also have an important role from the bench. Reddish can be used as a shooting guard as well as a small forward, which gives him a chance of many minutes. The Hawks Allen Crabbe also have this option in these positions. However, Crabbe is a pure sharpshooter, while Reddish can also create his own shot. Damian Jones will come from the bench to make minutes at center position. The double NBA champion came over from the Golden State Warriors, in a trade where Omari Spellman went to the Warriors. What the role of rookie Bruno Fernando will be is to wait and see.
The Atlanta Hawks are still in the familiar rebuild mode in terms of player ages. An average age of 22.2 years in the starting line-up and a good mix of experience and young talent on the bench will give the team many opportunities in the future. They are still in the rebuild process, but are certainly in the final phase. The playoffs seem to come a bit too early, but with so much young talent and potential, a stunt is certainly not excluded.