The Atlanta Hawks are in a steady decline since their 60-22 season under Mike Budenholzer in the 2014-15 season. The seasons after that saw their win total slip to 48, 43, and last years abysmal 24-58 record. The Hawks are in a rebuild, there’s no question about that. There are only seven players on the roster that have more than five years in the NBA. It’s evident that the front office and GM Travis Schlenk are looking at teams like the Golden State Warriors to build a team from the draft. The first move that resembles that is drafting Oklahoma sensation Trae Young in a move similar to the Warriors drafting Stephen Curry in 2009. After, frankly, a bad season last year, the Hawks will be looking to improve in any and all areas. Here’s the Atlanta Hawks Season Preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Atlanta Hawks Season Preview
What Worked Last Season
Heading into his sixth season, Dewayne Dedmon improved in almost all categories. He averaged 10 points, 7.9 rebounds, and shot 35.5% from three. The latter being impressive since Demon had only attempted one three-pointer in his career. Last season the big-man shot 141 three-pointers, sinking 50 of them. In today’s NBA the shooting ability of centers is a valuable addition to any contending team.
In his fourth season with the Hawks, Kent Bazemore posted career-highs in points, 12.9, assists, 3.5, and three-point percentage, 39.4%. His move to the 2-guard last season saw his comfort handling the ball grow. He created more shots and passed the ball effectively which will help him establish his spot in the rotation. Also, point guard Dennis Schroder made leaps and bounds to a good season
Overall, the season didn’t hold many positive points for Hawks fans, but it can be seen as the worst part of the rebuild. Ideally, a team will endure one or two low seasons while the rookies or young players attempt to form a team. Most would look to Sam Hinke’s Process with the Philadelphia 76ers as the ultimate reward while tanking or acquiring young potential superstars. Yet, the Hawks weren’t attempting this move, they sank into it.
What Needs Improvement
The hardest part of the Hawks decline is the lack of veteran leadership. Last season, they had eight rookies on the roster and only one 10 year veteran. This season looks to be similar despite the addition of 20-year veteran Vince Carter. The youthful Hawks need to establish a rotation that keeps the young players on the court for most of the season. While the veterans, like Carter, can mentor and assist the team to build a culture.
This season is not a contending season for the Hawks. That’s not a hot take or a bet that is going to win huge. With that out of the way, they can focus on the important task of building for the future. That being said, young players like John Collins and recently drafted Kevin Huerter must have the majority of the minutes. Overall, the Hawks have to establish what kind of team they are in order for them to eventually compete. Luckily for them, LeBron James headed West and left the East wide open for anyone to just come to pick it up.
Every franchise has a moment in a draft where they can choose their premier player to build around. These moments are highly criticized especially if the player doesn’t pan out. See Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, or Anthony Bennett. This past draft, the Hawks had this decision to make. With the third pick, they selected Luka Doncic with intent to trade him to the Dallas Mavericks, who were to select Trae Young as well as give up a few protected top-five picks. This move cements Young as the future of the team. Still a highly questionable move because of the proven potential of Doncic and the potential bust of Young in the NBA.
Early in the off-season the Hawks also let go of coach Mike Budenholzer. This decision was reported to be mutual and expected by both sides after the decline of the franchise. The Hawks hired Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach, Lloyd Pierce.
Outside of the draft where the Hawks also selected Huerter and Omari Spellman, they didn’t make too many moves. The Hawks jumped into the mix and sent off Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala while receiving Carmelo Anthony, Justin Anderson, and draft picks for upcoming years. This, of course, was just a way for Anthony to be waived and sign with the Houston Rockets after a buyout. However, those future draft picks are the best option for this young team to continue building the culture here.
2018-19 Season Prediction
The Hawks have a few more rookies to add to their young roster and they may have a real opportunity to contend in the next five years. Of course if the 76ers “Process” is to be trusted, this may propel them to a deep run in that amount of time. On the back of Trae Young and the potential draft picks in the coming years, the Hawks fans should be optimistic about their future. However, this season will be quite similar to last. The opening predictions for their win total are 24 currently. This seems right on the nose as they haven’t gotten better necessarily, but they haven’t become worse. In remaining positive though, expect the Hawks to end up finishing 28-54 but show some flashes of a promising future.
MANHATTAN, KS – JANUARY 16: Trae Young #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners drives to the basket against the Kansas State Wildcats during the first half on January 16, 2018 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)