The Atlanta Hawks are coming off a season in which they went 20-47, finishing 14th in the Eastern Conference and securing the 6th pick in the NBA Draft, which we will get to later. The Hawks had a big Free Agency period, with the biggest name being F Danilo Gallinari. The Hawks have built a team that looks to be a playoff team, but I'm not sold on this team quite yet. Here's why.
Young Duo Trae Young (Left) and John Collins (Right)
Onyeka Okongwu (Pictured)
The Atlanta Hawks had a big off season, having a lot of money to spend in free agency as well as a top pick in the draft. Let's start with what they did during the draft. With the 6th pick the Hawks selected Onyeka Okongwu, a C out of USC. Okongwu averaged 16&9 with 3 blocks a game, and is known for his elite rim protection and is very good in the PnR game. The pick was rumored to be traded, to the Celtics in exchange for likely Gordon Hayward and one or multiple of the Celtics first rounders. However that didn't come to fruition and the Hawks took Okongwu, who will likely come off the bench behind Clint Capela, who the Hawks acquired from the Rockets. I question the pick when they could've gone with a wing who would've started, or traded for a proven guy, instead of drafting a guy who win be on the bench unit. The Hawks also selected Skylar Mays with the 50th pick, a guard from LSU who was a 4 year collegiate player. They also signed un-drafted free agent big man Nathan Knight from William & Mary to a 2 way contract, another 4 year college player who was a starter from 3 years and averaged over 20&8 in his junior and senior seasons.
Danilo Gallinari (Left) and Rajon Rondo (Right)
Now, into free agency. The Hawks opened with over 50 million dollars to spend in free agency and used a lot of it. The Hawks opened up and did a sign and trade with the Thunder to acquire Danilo Gallinari who was signed to a 3 year 64 million dollar deal for a 2025 conditional 2nd round pick. Gallinari was one of 3 Thunder players that averaged over 18 points per game, as well as shooting 40% from 3. The team has also said that Gallinari will be used off the bench, and will be a great leader of the Hawks bench unit. The Hawks then signed veteran PG Rajon Rondo, who missed a portion of the regular season, but played outstanding for the Lakers in the playoffs, averaging 9&7 on 40% shooting from 3. Rondo signed a 2 year 15 million dollar deal, and will be the facilitator of the bench unit. Next up, Kris Dunn was brought in on a 2 year 10 million dollar deal to add defense to one of the worst defensive teams last season. The last signing the Hawks made was bringing in G Bogdan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic was originally included in a sign and trade with the Kings to the Bucks, but basically told the Bucks no, and the trade fell through and he entered free agency and signed a 4 year deal worth 72 million dollars. Bogdanovic is entering his 4th NBA season, but is already 28. Bogdanovic will add another scoring option after Trae Young and John Collins. Now to most, that's a pretty good free agency class, and quite frankly I'd have to agree. The Hawks went out and brought in some veteran leadership in Gallinari and Rondo, defense in Dunn, and some scoring from Bogdanovic.
Trae Young (Left) and John Collins (Right)
Well, now let's get into the team as it is. The teams depth is very good, having multiple serviceable players at guard forward and center. The team's guards who will get play time are Trae Young, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Kevin Huerter. Defensively, this group is very poor, outside of Dunn. Offensively, they can get things done. Young, Bogdanovic, and Huerter can all shoot the 3 ball very well, and in Trae's case from very deep. Rondo will be the veteran leader of this group, and can hopefully help Trae Young out with being a better facilitator. The team's forwards have the ability to do it all, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, 2 top 10 picks from the 2020 draft, John Collins and Danilo Gallinari. Hunter and Reddish both struggled last season offensively, but should be able to make a jump after a season of NBA experience. Danilo Gallinari, the Hawks big name free agency signing and will provide great scoring off the bench, and will help the youngins get better. John Collins is a versatile big man who is outstanding in the PnR game, as well as expanding his game and moving out to the 3 and shot 40% last season. Finally, the centers, led by recent acquisitions Clint Capela, and Onyeka Okongwu. Capela who had spent his entire career with the Rockets prior to be shipped to Atlanta, is a typical back to the basket big man who can rebound and block shots. Capela has averaged a double double with over a block and a half per game for the last 3 seasons of his career. Now onto Okongwu. I already dove him into him previously, but Okongwu is very athletic, plays great in the PnR, is an elite rim protecter and can rebound very well. Overall the team looks solid, like a potential playoff team, but now I'm going to get into some reasons why they may not be.
The competition in the East, just got a lot harder. Gordon Hayward being traded to the Hornets as well as LaMelo Ball being selected there, could boost the Hornets into a potential 8th seed berth. The Wizards added Russell Westbrook, drafted foreign prospect Deni Avdija with the 9th pick, and for a team that finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last season, could be enough for them to get over the hump and steal a playoff spot. The Chicago Bulls, a roster that was hit with the injury bug last season, with Otto Porter Jr. missing the majority of the season, as well as Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. missing some time and neither took the step they were expected to. Both of the young big men should take that next step as the Bulls signed a great coach in Billy Donovan, who can hope to help them develop as players. Those are 3 teams that were non playoff teams last season, that I think could have a shot at the playoffs, not counting the 8 teams that did make the playoffs. The Nets will be getting Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant back from their injuries, which should catapult them into a top 3 team in the East. The 76ers revamped and added the shooting that they desperately needed bringing in Seth Curry and Danny Green. The Celtics adding bench help in Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson. The Bucks even added shooting, bringing in DJ Augistin, as well as Bobby Portis to be a backup big to Brook Lopez, and maybe the biggest move this off season, bringing in Jrue Holiday to be the 3rd star the Bucks needed to get over the hump in the East. I'm not sure if the Hawks are better than any of the 8 teams that made the playoffs last season, besides MAYBE the Magic, who didn't really do much of anything, besides drafting Cole Anthony and bringing in... Dwayne Bacon. But the Magic are another topic, for another time. This is about the Hawks, and their ability to make the playoffs, which I'm gonna wrap up here.
With the Hawks current depth chart looking like this :
PG Trae Young, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn
SG Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter
SF De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish PF John Collins, Danilo Gallinari C Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu
I'm not exactly sold that this team would be enough to sneak into the playoffs. There's a lot of offense on this team, with Young who averaged 30 last season, Collins with 21, Bogdanovic, Gallinari, and Capela are all able to score 15 a game. The offensive potential with Hunter and Reddish. Rondo to facilitate the bench unit. But defensively the liability's some of these players are is ridiculous. Trae Young is one of the worst, if not THE worst defender in the league, Bogdanovic, Galo, Collins, all poor defenders. Maybe, with the additions of Capela, Okongwu, and Dunn the team can turn it around on the defensive end to help propel them into a playoff team. However, I'm not quite sold on this team. I think there are 10-11 teams that are better than them, but they do certainly have the potential to make the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed. Just with the bottom half of the conference getting stronger, it makes it a lot more competitive for the final 1-2 seeds, which also makes it a lot more interesting.
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