Welcome to my first edition of 30 Teams in 30 Days in anticipation of the upcoming NBA season. Each of these will evaluate each team’s offseason addition and subtractions, projected starting lineups, and overall team analysis. My evaluations are based on alphabetic order based on the team’s city. First off is the Atlanta Hawks.
Additions: Trae Young, Alex Len, Jeremy Lin, Vince Carter, Omari Spellman, Justin Anderson, Kevin Huerter
Subtractions: Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Trae Young
SG: Jeremy Lin
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: John Collins
C: Alex Len
I will start this off short and sweet: the Atlanta Hawks are my preseason favorite for first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. To be frank, first-year head coach and former Philadelphia 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce does not have enough talent to compete for anything in this upcoming season. This franchise is in full rebuild mode after trading point guard Dennis Schroder to the Oklahoma City Thunder and stretch-big Mike Muscala to the 76ers over the summer. In return the Hawks received Carmelo Anthony, whom they quickly waived, and a 2022 protected first round pick from OKC.
The team’s biggest offseason acquisition is Oklahoma point guard Trae Young with whom they drafted fifth overall in June’s NBA Draft. Young led all of NCAA basketball in points per game (27.4) and assists per game (8.7) in a tough Big 12 conference. Dubbed the new franchise cornerstone, Coach Pierce and his associates will look for ways to maximize Young’s potential. It may just take a few seasons. Turnover-prone and inefficient from the field, Young must rely on his new teammates much more than he did at Oklahoma. Skillwise, the rookie is very similar in stature and playing style to two-time MVP Stephen Curry, but may be a better passer than Curry was at the age of 19. Young may very easily lead this team in both scoring and assists like he did at Oklahoma, but it may come in an inefficient manner that comes with a lot of growing pains.
From the power forward position is the second-year explosive athlete, John Collins. While still raw, Collins can still get easy points in transition and putbacks as evidenced by his Summer League performance. The big man averaged 24 PPG on 48% from the field and 8.5 RPG and is starting to look the part as a player the Hawks can build around alongside Trae Young. If Lloyd Pierce and his staff can help Collins work on any resemblance of a jumpshot, it will benefit Young tremendously as both a pick-and-roller or pick-and-popper to alleviate the pressure of assimilating to the NBA. A transition to center may be in Collins’ best interests after he builds more muscle over the next few seasons.
The rest of the team is really a wild card. Will Alex Len finally live up to his top five draft status after several years of struggling in Phoenix? Can Jeremy Lin return to his former self after struggling last season with injury? Is Vince Carter too old to contribute on the court for a young Hawks team? Kevin Huerter out of Maryland may have been the most accurate deadeye shooter in the past draft, but can he continue to do so from the NBA three-point line? An NCAA champion from Villanova, Omari Spellman is a stretch big who could provide decent shooting and rebounding off of the Hawks bench if he can get his conditioning up to par. Former 76ers wing Justin Anderson has the ability to bother any wing as a defensive specialist off the bench but can he provide enough shooting to be playable? Kent Bazemore should be able to provide quality veteran playing time from the wing position after averaging 12.9/3.8/3.5 on 39.4% from three point range and Dewayne Dedmon is one of the most underrated backup big men in the league but is that enough?
There are simply too many questions and not enough talent for this Hawks team to win maybe even 20 games this season. For a team with too few stoppers on the defensive end and not enough shooters surrounding Trae Young, I expect them to finish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and probably the NBA. A top three pick in the next draft could give Coach Pierce and GM Travis Schlenk another franchise cornerstone to pair with Trae Young whether it be one of the Duke trio of freshman phenoms in RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson or Nassir Little from UNC. Good luck Hawks. You’ll need it.
Picture Courtesy of Sporting News (Trae Young)
University of South Carolina ’21