The Atlanta Hawks finished the 2018-19 season in the 12th spot of the Eastern Conference with a 29-53 record. They gave up a league worse 119.4 points per game, including score lines like their 149-114 loss to the powerhouse playoff pusher Orlando Magic.
The young Hawks finished dead last in the weakest division in the NBA. Even the Washington Wizards were better than them in 2018-19.
However, in the midst of some very obvious failures, there were also undoubted positives.
Trae Young had an incredible rookie year. The point guard out of Oklahoma averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds, and would have won the Rookie of the Year award, if not for a certain Slovenian in the state of Texas.
Fellow rookie Kevin Huerter and second year player John Collins also had incredibly promising years. Huerter earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team by averaging 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 38.5% shooting from the field.
Collins was even better.
The high flyer out of Wake Forrest averaged 19.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks a game in his sophomore season. He’s also liable to catch a body at almost time and helped keep the Hawks fun to watch even when they were losing.
The Hawks weren’t in consideration for any of the big time free agents this summer, but the small moves they did make, along with a strong draft, undoubtedly has them in a better position for the 2019-20 season — a position I’m confident in saying will end with the playoffs.
A conversation on Atlanta’s offseason has to begin with the draft, where they selected Deandre Hunter with the fourth pick and Cam Reddish at the tenth spot. A discussion on the specifics of what these two players bring to the floor isn’t necessary for this article, but it goes without saying that both these guys have high upsides, and fit the popular trend of young wing players that can slide between the three and four spots while defending multiple positions and knocking down open threes.
The Hawks also selected Maryland big man, Bruno Fernando 34th overall. He had a strong summer league and Atlanta now has three Maryland players on their roster, along with Huerter and Alex Len — so I’m thinking that’s something to keep an eye on.
I would also add that I think Reddish will end up having a better rookie campaign than Hunter, and that Hunter had his draft spot elevated by the college basketball trap of overrating players that make it far into March.
Moving onto free agency, the Hawks didn’t have a flashy window, but they did make a few moves. The first thing they did was flip long time fan favorite Kent Bazemore to the Portland Trailblazers for the long time dislikable Evan Turner.
Turner does though bring a solid veteran presence to the incredibly young Atlanta roster, and he can help provide bench minutes for basically four positions. More specifically Turner will aid Young with the ball handling, and let the young guard act as a straight up scorer for stretches of the game. The Hawks also traded Taurean Prince to Brooklyn and Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee to Memphis. In return they got Allen Crabbe from Brooklyn and Chandler Parsons from Memphis.
Getting ride of Prince made sense. He would just eat up minutes from Hunter and Reddish, and while Prince showed positives throughout his young career, he doesn’t belong in the young core moving forward. Crabbe can make an open three, but who knows where he’ll fall in the rotation.
Here’s a hot take within a hot take. Chandler Parson’s is going to have a bounce back year. He showed signs of life down the stretch last year, and with a new surrounding, look for Parson’s to win the Hawks some basketball games in the upcoming year.
Atlanta also signed former number two overall pick Jabari Parker and G-League player Ray Spalding.
The roster isn’t set in stone, but the starting five will most likely look something like Young at the point, Huerter at the two, Hunter, Reddish or Turner at the small forward, and Collins and Len combining for a strong frontcourt.
It’s a starting five with huge upside. The Bucks, 76ers, Nets, Raptors, Celtics, Pacers and Heat will all most likely make the playoffs, but for that eighth spot, you heard it here first, it will be none other than the Atlanta Hawks.