• Chandler Harper

How to Fill the Holes on the Hawks Roster

USA Today

The Hawks have a great young core, but Atlanta’s roster still has some question marks. The team specifically lacks proven depth at two key positions: point guard and center.

Atlanta will have nearly $70 million in cap space next summer. Perhaps the team’s front office will look to making meaningful additions in the coming offseason. But what can be done in the interim?

December 15th will be a big day for Atlanta. At that point, most of the players who signed contracts this summer will be tradeable. This opens a world of opportunity for the Hawks to fill some roster holes.

The most glaring need the Hawks have is the backup point guard position. Having a point in reserve is so important. Someone who can run the team’s offense and keep things afloat while the starters rest.

Right now, Atlanta is relying on Evan Turner. Sure, ET can make some plays occasionally, but he is not sufficient as a backup point guard for an entire season. If anything, Turner would complement the starters by allowing Trae Young and Kevin Huerter to play off-ball.

The Hawks’ best route to fill this hole is try and find some young guys to take a flier on. This is a great chance for Atlanta to try the “Second Draft” approach.

Two immediate names that come to mind are Frank Ntilikina and Kris Dunn. Both players would be at their best in an up-tempo system like Atlanta’s where they can run a second unit with another ball-handler or two. Both also would be a great counter to Trae Young, big physical guards. And both could play with Young to help with the defense and take some ball handling pressure off Young while letting Young explore using his shooting in an off-ball roll similar to what Steph Curry does a lot.

Ntilikina looked great during FIBA, but his days in New York are still likely numbered. The Hawks could design a trade based around DeAndre’ Bembry or match the salaries with some of their minimum contracts and attach two second-round picks and the deal would get done. Likewise, Kris Dunn is almost definitely available. Chicago has no backup wings and Atlanta has no backup point guard. These would be obvious trade partners.

The Hawks’ other crucial roster hole is their lack of an established backup center. Alex Len will be the starter, and Atlanta will rely on John Collins, Damian Jones, and Bruno Fernando to fill the backup minutes. Collins is better suited as a power forward, Jones has not proven he can be a legit NBA player yet, and Fernando was just drafted.

The Hawks can take their time sorting out their frontcourt rotation, but there are options to make immediate improvements. The first trade partner to call should be Dallas.

Dwight Powell could be an interesting addition. He would be a nice rim-runner to play with Trae Young and he’d allow John Collins to play on the perimeter. Due to Powell’s bloated contract, Dallas would possibly even attach some sort of sweetener for Atlanta to take him on. The deal could be centered around swapping Allen Crabbe’s expiring contract for Powell, a little bit more filler salary, and some form of sweetener like Justin Jackson or some second-round picks.

Maxi Kleber is another intriguing Mavs center. He is a very solid all-around big man. He would be a great fit to grow with the Hawk’s young core. Kleber would step in and be the team’s best interior defender and he would be able to run the floor and shoot threes, all while being on a long-term team-friendly contract.

There are also lots of other big men who are in situations where they might be easily attained. Some others that come to mind are: Isaiah Hartenstein, Khem Birch, Thon Maker, Noah Vonleh, and many more who would be a good fit in Atlanta.

At the end of the day, Atlanta might not look to make any changes. Maybe management’s goal is to have one more year in the lottery before they look to start filling out the roster. Either way, these are certainly moves worth the phone call.

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