There are several young teams looking to take the leap into contention during the upcoming season. None of them look as poised to make that jump as the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have continually made headlines since the 2019-20 season wrapped up. They will be looking to take the momentum they have built and use it to propel them into contention.
Atlanta was one of the more talked about teams when the off-season got under way. The team had more cap space than any team, they had the 6th pick in the draft, and had Trae Young saying he is ready to compete. The Hawks had plenty of options available to them when the off-season got started. I think they can feel confident about how things shook out. The roster does seem crammed as there are legitimately 13 guys who should get playing time this season. That may cause some tension as the season moves along, but whoever thought having too much talent was a bad thing?
The first domino to fall was on draft night. Atlanta had the sixth pick in the draft and ended up selecting USC center Onyeka Okungwu. Many believed Okungqu was the best player available and that the Hawks were right in making this pick. Onyeka is a physically imposing, athletic big man who shows flashes of being a great modern-day center. The immediate question that came to my mind was what the future held for the front court of the team. Atlanta already has both John Collins and Clint Capela on the roster. Does this selection start the clock on one of those two being traded? The organization has options as to what they can do down the line with these talented big men.
Free agency was good to Atlanta as they were able to nab two offensively gifted players on the market. After the debacle with Milwaukee, Bogdan Bogdanovic ended up signing a four-year deal with the team for $72 million. Danilo Gallinari also landed in Atlanta as he inked a three-year deal worth $65 million. These two moves should help bolster the offense and take pressure off of Young to be great every night. The team also ended up signing veteran guard Rajon Rondo and defensive specialist Kris Dunn to help solidify the back court. Rondo should be a useful backup guard who leads the second unit while Dunn provides great defense. All of these moves seem alleviate the strain on Trae on both sides of the ball.
The two issues this team will more than likely face this season are defense and keeping everyone happy. The only defender on the team I would consider great is Dunn. Outside of that, Rondo can hold his own and Capela is a good rim protector. Okungwu has the tools to be a great defender, but it’s rare for rookies to be good on that side of the ball. John Collins, De’andre Hunter, and Cam Reddish have a chance to be good stoppers, but their roles are all question marks. Someone who deserves minutes is going to be pushed out of the rotation and that could be a problem. The amount of wing depth the team has looks great on paper, but it could cause problems in the locker room.
It has been a while since we last saw the Hawks make the playoffs, but I believe that changes this year. Trae and the supporting cast around him are just too good . This team is not perfect by any means, but it’s a step up compared to what Atlanta has seen in recent history.