It’s official: the Hawks season is over, and they won’t be back until the end of the year.
The Board of Governors agreed to a 22-team season that’s headed to Orlando, which means 8 teams will be left out of the fun. Atlanta was one of those teams.
Coach Pierce said it best in an interview on ESPN:
“If the season is going to resume and we’re still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season.”
It would have been nice to see a young and upcoming team get more game experience, but with COVID-19 still looming large over the country, the safety and health of the league is a priority.
For what the season was, we saw the worst of the Hawks, and we saw the best of the Hawks. We saw the last of Vince Carter, who left a major impact on not only the young Hawks, but the entire league.
We saw the transformation of Cam Reddish, who had a sluggish start to his rookie season but bounced back and turned into a solid two-way player for the Hawks towards the end of the season. He found confidence in his offensive game, which was a big thing for a player who was deemed to be one of the most skilled players in the draft.
We saw how important John Collins was to this team. After being suspended early in the season, it looked like the Hawks were playing on one leg for 25 games. When he returned, they were a different team. He finished the season averaging 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds, and saw a big improvement in his defensive game. A big payday should be coming for Collins, and he’s showed the past two seasons that he deserves every dollar.
We saw that Trae Young is legit, but the extent of his second-year jump was not expected. When Young was in college, he averaged the most points and assists in the league. Two years later and he’s in the top 5 with some of the best players in the world in both categories. He continues to prove his doubters wrong, and is showing that he’s the future of the Hawks and the NBA. If he’s averaging 29.6 points and 9.3 assists in his sophomore year, just think what’s to come as the years go on.
Just like this young team, we saw how coach Pierce continues to grow in his role. Pierce had some bad nights, and then some good nights. He’s received harsh criticism, and he’s received a round of applause. But that’s what happens when you’re a new coach with a young team. Pierce definitely looks like he has the players’ attention, and they follow his lead because they trust him. He’ll be around for years to come.
Many people forget that the Hawks acquired Clint Capela at the trade deadline. He was injured, which forced him to sit on the sidelines for the remainder of the season. One of the biggest problems the Hawks had was lack of a paint presence, and Capela should bring that when he’s healthy for this squad. The talks of him and Collins not working should be a distant memory, because Collins has played next to traditional bigs and still been productive. Trae and Capela will also be a good pick and roll duo with both needing extra attention to what they do on the court.
It’s evident that when Young goes off the floor, the production at the backup guard spot drops off. Brandon Goodwin and Jeff Teague were solid in their roles, but the Hawks needed more facilitating and scoring at the position. The free agency class is not very deep this time around, but players like Fred VanVleet and Bogdan Bogdanovic will be available. Trae is young, but he shouldn’t need to play 40 minutes a game to ensure a Hawks win. He needs some help.
If they can’t find help in free agency, the draft will offer some options as well. The Hawks will have a high draft pick, but will they use it? Coach Pierce stated last year the goal was to make the playoffs next season, and adding more young players isn’t going to help. If they want to achieve their big goals, trading the pick for a player like Bradley Beal would work out well. If they do decide to keep the pick and it’s in the top-4, Anthony Edwards would make sense in a Hawks uniform. He has the ability to score from anywhere and his defense is exceptional as well.
Like I already stated, the goal next year is the playoffs. That means the Hawks’ core five has to step up, and the supporting cast has to do their job as well. The talent is there, but it’s all about putting it together now. Coach Pierce will have to take a big leap in his third year to get this group ready and prepared to get into postseason, but it all starts with what they do in the offseason and the regular season.
The Hawks season ended early, but we saw what this team is capable of when everything is clicking. Next season will prove if their ready for that next step.