The Atlanta Hawks are a must watch on NBA league pass next season. With an intriguing and exciting young core, the Hawks are back on the NBA map. With Trae Young as the franchise cornerstone they could contend in the eastern conference sooner rather than later.
Two seasons ago Hawks management decided it was time to blow it up. All the vets that were part of the previous regime walked or were traded and they started building through the Draft. Ex Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk was hired to build the team from the ground up.
Building through the draft
John Collins was the first piece in the door, a steal with the 19th pick. Collins, out of Wake Forest, averaged 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds on 56% shooting last year. His combination with Trae Young in the pick and roll will be the Hawks bread and butter for years to come. Not only is Collins a prime lob threat every night, his pick and pop game is also developing. Collins shot a respectable 34.8% from three in the last season.
Come the 2018 draft, Schlenk put his nuts on the line by taking Luka Doncic and then immediately trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young and a first round pick. Though this move was criticized at the time, he shouldn’t be judged on it straight away. Young had an exceptional rookie year and after the All-Star break posted some mind boggling numbers.
Young’s passing ability is his real strength, but if his shooting comes on he could be an offensive powerhouse in the league.
For the second year in a row Schlenk got value in the draft. This time the 19th pick netted the Hawks Kevin Huerter. Huerter provided the best on off rating for the team last year at + 6.6 while he showed impressive offensive skills across the board. Huerter showed off a stepback, off the dribble scoring and secondary play making. His three point efficiency was third only to Collin Sexton and Landry Shamet in his rookie class.
Fast forward to this year and Schlenk made serious moves on draft night. Having the 8th and 10th picks coming into draft night, Schlenk made a series of moves that eventually netted them De’Andre Hunter, Bruno Fernando and Cam Reddish. They didn’t give up future assets to move up in the draft. While they used their cap space creatively to take on bad contracts from around the league, and gain extra assets. On top of their own future picks they also own a Brooklyn Nets first in 2020 and an OKC first in 2022.
De’Andre Hunter projects as a multi positional defender in the NBA. If Young is the offensive lynch-pin then Hunter is the leader of the defense. With a massive 7’2 wingspan, quick feet and a stout body that is NBA ready, Hunter could potentially guard four positions in the league. His 42.8% from three point range last year also bodes well for a three and d ceiling.
Style of play
It would be harsh to reflect negatively on the Hawks 29 – 53 record last year. 22 different players donned a uniform in the season, of which only five had more than five years experience in the league. This young crop ended the season with the leagues 12th best offense while also leading the league in pace. Their run and gun style led to being top five in attempts at the rim and from three point land. Coach Lloyd Pierce deserves credit for defining a play style early on. Though the defense needs work, they want to play fast and have the personnel to do it.
Only two years ago the reset button was pushed. In this time the front office have a built of stable of young athletes with other assets to join them. Trae Young and De’Andre Hunter represent the future of this league when it comes to multi dimensional athletes. With a potential 83 million in cap space next year, this team can swing for the fences in free agency or continue to build through the draft. Either way they are setup for the future. Travis Schlenk, take a bow!