This might be a franchise-altering offseason for the hawks, who’ve loads of choices to make concerning the way forward for their roster. They’ve a reputable star in Trae Younger. They’ve intriguing function gamers who may match with Younger, however the playoffs confirmed it is a flawed roster.
There’s been lots of speak from each Hawks basic supervisor Travis Schlenk and proprietor Tony Ressler on this season being a disappointment and the way they’re going to look to enhance for subsequent season.
To research the state of the Hawks, senior NBA author John Hollinger, who was the grizzlies‘ vp of basketball operations from 2012-19, and Hawks beat author Chris Kirschner mentioned Atlanta’s offseason priorities, its roster-building choices, what to make of the core, free company and trades they might make.
Let’s get to Half 1 of this two-part collection. The second a part of the dialog will run on Thursday.
Chris Kirschner: Atlanta’s season, coming off a run to the Japanese Convention finals, didn’t go in response to plan in some ways. The Hawks began 4-9 after some weird play in these first few video games the place their id was far and wide, gorgeous individuals inside and out of doors the group. (Does anybody keep in mind what number of midrange jumpers they have been settling for? Trae Younger mentioned the common season was much more boring than the playoffs.) Atlanta misplaced 10 video games in a row at residence at one level. They’d two totally different seven-game successful streaks. There was simply no consistency all season lengthy. Kevin Huerter summed it up completely to me close to the tip of the season, saying this yr felt like a season-long climb out of a gap they might by no means get out of.
The Hawks’ season ended unceremoniously in Miami on a play the place they could not even rise up a shot to probably save their season, which was fairly becoming for the way the Warmth defended them all through the collection.
Younger, specifically, was surprisingly held in examine all collection lengthy exterior of an excellent fourth quarter in Recreation 3. I feel we’ve got to begin by analyzing him as a result of he is the center of this group. From what you noticed out of him towards Miami — on each ends of the ground — does it in any respect change your long-term analysis of him and the way the Hawks ought to construct the roster round him?
John Hollinger: Not likely. Younger was fairly shockingly unhealthy, to the purpose that I puzzled if there was an undisclosed harm, however I additionally suppose it spoke to the restrictions of the remainder of the roster. The Warmth may utterly load up on stopping Trae and did not have to fret rather a lot about anybody else, particularly as soon as Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s knee troubles flared up once more on the finish of the collection. A sane JohnCollins might need made a distinction, however within the larger image, the Hawks want their gamers on the two, three and 4 to be extra constantly threatening.
Additionally, that is extra of a playoff concern than a regular-season one. Within the massive image, Atlanta nonetheless had the league’s second-best offense with Younger on the controls. The actual fact the Hawks nonetheless barely gained helped their video games was due to the protection.
Kirschner: I feel the whole Miami collection uncovered every of Atlanta’s flaws. I assumed it was clear from the very starting that the Hawks wanted a go to secondary choice who may constantly break down guys off the dribble, they usually merely want higher function gamers.
Realizing how Younger operates, he’ll use this collection because the blueprint for what he must get higher. I am not fearful about him figuring it out. What I do fear about is younger nonetheless being engaged in video games when issues aren’t going his approach. He is anticipated to be the chief of this group. He has to do a greater job at main shifting ahead.
Switching gears to the Recreation 5 breakout participant for the Hawks: the delight and pleasure of your Virginia Cavaliers, De’Andre Hunter. He scored 36 within the group’s closeout recreation and was the rationale why the Hawks had an opportunity to win on the street. He is extension-eligible this offseason, and I’d be fairly stunned to see Hunter and the Hawks comply with a deal except it is extremely team-friendly. He was past disappointing this season after coming off two meniscus surgical procedures and a wrist surgical procedure in-season.
Hunter admitted in exit interviews that he looks like he isn’t but nice in anybody space, and that is one thing I have been saying all season lengthy. He actually had his moments the place he was a lockdown defender, however he was principally OK on that finish. He does not move properly. He does not rebound properly. He does not rating on the rim properly. Actually, the one space the place he excelled this season was capturing 3s. Perhaps a wholesome offseason may be the distinction for him, as a result of I assumed he was distinctive to begin final season earlier than he bought damage.
somebody introduced this up in my mailbag final week: His Recreation 5 efficiency was much like Cam Reddish‘s Recreation 6 final season towards the bucks. Those that did not watch the Hawks intently sufficient marveled over Reddish’s potential when he was properly beneath common virtually all season, and the identical is occurring now with Hunter, who did not carry out as poorly as Reddish however was principally a below-average starter this season.
So, a two-part query for you. First, what’s your analysis of Hunter and the way would you deal with his extension? Do you consider in his long-term match with the Hawks? Second, how ought to we consider how Schlenk dealt with the 2019 draft? They’d two prime 10 picks; considered one of them is already off the roster, and Hunter principally has been disappointing or injured, and lest we neglect that the Hawks gave up a haul to maneuver as much as No. 4.
Hollinger: There are two separate questions concerning Hunter and an extension. First, what’s the state of his recreation? And second, what’s the state of his knee? Extending him for a number of years after the following one requires a leap of religion that he can keep moderately wholesome for the following decade or so. Schlenk might want to get good solutions from the trainers and medical workers on the likelihood of Hunter enjoying out that deal.
As to his degree of play, whereas that Recreation 5 towards Miami was encouraging, that is not who he was within the different 57 video games he performed. Statistically and from the attention take a look at, he regarded like a minimal man for lengthy stretches. Whereas he has the theoretical size-defense-shooting package deal to be a plus 3-and-D wing, he is solely actually confirmed that for the one stretch firstly of the 2020-21 season. He is a poor ballhandler, and his capturing is worse than promised (35.9 p.c from 3), whereas his protection is extra “good for a Hawk” than really impactful.
In consequence, I agree that I do not see a decision on an extension. There isn’t a purpose for Hunter to lock in a low quantity and no purpose for the Hawks to decide to a better one, even setting apart the knee points. Due to restricted free company, the Hawks must be in an excellent place to retain him subsequent summer season if he proves he is value paying. Moreover, not paying him makes it simpler to place him in a commerce, which the Hawks have to be open-minded about since Schlenk and Ressler have made no secret of their wishes to pursue upgrades.
As for the larger query of the 2019 draft, I wasn’t an enormous fan of the transfer on the time, and we’re seeing it now in how the deal performed out. I watched a ton of UVA video games that yr as we rolled to the nationwide title (needed to get that in there) and by no means noticed the kind of high-end upside in Hunter that will lead one to take him within the prime 5.
It was an costly trade-up, too, costing the Hawks choose Nos. 8, 17 and 35 in that 2019 draft, two future seconds and taking over the $12 million in dead-ish cash on the final yr of Solomon Hill’s deal. Buying and selling up at all times prices greater than the sum of no matter you suppose the choose values may be, as a result of that is normally what it takes to compel the opposite aspect to motion. However even permitting for that, this was an overpay. In 20-20 hindsight, the Hawks would have been a lot better off taking both Tyler Herro or PJ Washington at eight, and considered one of Brandon Clarke, Keldon Johnson or Grant Williams at 17. (Whereas we’re right here and being snarky, taking Daniel Gaford as a substitute of Bruno Fernando additionally might need helped.)
After all, you are able to do that with any draft: There’ll virtually at all times be someone taken later who turned out higher. The true, underlying story is that Schlenk reached as a result of he wasn’t going to take Darius Garland with Trae right here and was underwhelmed by his different non-Hunter choices. The truth that gamers like Jarrett Culver, Coby White, Rui Hachimura, Jason Hayes and Reddish have been the following 5 non-Garland gamers taken after Hunter at the least redeems that time.
It is also truthful to level that the three gamers New Orleans chosen with Atlanta’s picks in 2019 aren’t precisely setting the world on hearth (Hayes, Nickeil Alexander Walkerwho was ultimately traded to Utah, and Didi Louzada) … besides that the Hawks additionally gave up a future choose in that commerce the Pelicans ultimately used to draft Herb Jones at 35 in 2021. Ooopsie. (There’s one choose nonetheless left to resolve that commerce, the forty seventh choose in 2022 that presently belongs to Memphis.)
Kirschner: I do not suppose I noticed till you mentioned it that the Pelicans used a type of second-round picks they bought from the Hawks on Jones. yikes I feel Jones is already a greater particular person defender than Hunter, which isn’t nice. I feel the 2019 draft as an entire has been an under-discussed level in the case of Atlanta’s roster round Younger, as a result of none of these guys panned out as anticipated. I nonetheless consider in Hunter and really feel like this offseason is a important one for his improvement, however there is a lengthy option to go in changing into the participant we noticed firstly of the 2020 season.
That brings me to my subsequent level. How do you’re feeling in regards to the core of this roster? After all, this group was simply two wins away from the NBA Finals final season, nevertheless it does really feel like that may’ve been the absolute best consequence for the Younger-Huerter-Hunter-Collins core.
Clearly Younger is right here to remain, so let’s preserve him out of this dialog. However round Younger, is there anybody on this roster who you would be extraordinarily hesitant in shifting from? We are able to embrace Clint Capela different Onyeka Okongwu within the combine right here, too, as a result of they’ve each proven significance the previous two seasons.
Hollinger: I did not suppose there’s one participant on this roster that I’d take into account untouchable. The Hawks should get higher on protection and have so as to add at the least one other dependable wing creator to take among the load off Trae. Bogdanovic was introduced in to be that man — and infrequently has been — however his knee points have gotten worrisome sufficient to surprise how lengthy that may proceed.
Actually, if there was a high-level wing or combo ahead on the desk, who would you say “no approach” to on together with? Even with Capela and Okongwu, the actual fact the Hawks have each makes it a lot simpler to commerce considered one of them.
As a substitute of declaring someone off limits, let me say one thing else: I do suppose the Hawks have to be a bit cautious about throwing Collins out with the bathwater. He is not a celebrity, however he does lots of issues properly, fills a couple of totally different niches relying on want and is coming into his age-25 season.
Kirschner: To your final level, that is what I mentioned Monday in my story on predicting who stays and who goes: “Collins is the final word group man and somebody any franchise ought to wish to have on its roster.” He places up environment friendly numbers each season, can choose and pop at a excessive degree and has become an excellent defender. But when the Hawks have a need to get a second star in Atlanta, Collins might need to be within the deal, as a result of he is priceless and also you normally should half with an excellent participant in these sorts of trades. Ideally, he may nonetheless be part of the group shifting ahead, nevertheless it may be powerful.
This can be a good level to pause our dialog, as a result of we’ll focus on how the Hawks may look to improve the roster.
(Photograph of Trae Younger: Jasen Vinlove / USA Right this moment)