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The Hawks’ Status As A Future Perennial Powerhouse

The Hawks are currently one of the NBA’s worst teams, but the future in Atlanta is looking extremely bright.

As expected by many heading into this season, the Atlanta Hawks have been a bottom-dwelling team for the majority of their schedule. While they’ve inched a little closer towards .500 recently, this mostly inexperienced team is still far from being a legitimate Eastern Conference contender. 

However, with an extremely young core composed of two rookies and a second-year player, the Hawks are building the foundation for a few years down the road, and that capacity for dominance is shaping up to be downright scary for the rest of the league.

To no avail of conservative basketball purists, the league has been shifting towards a more offensively focused game, which has resulted in higher scoring across the board. Along with an increase in average scoring across the league by about 10 points per game over the last decade, the scoring average has increased each of the last four years, and is up a whopping four points per game from last year. This can be explained, in part, by more three-pointers being taken as teams center their offense around these shots. The league average for three-point attempts per game has gone up by 13 in the last decade. And in this long range, offensive golden age of basketball, no team is more primed to thrive in the future than the Atlanta Hawks.

With the fifth-worst record in the NBA right now, the Hawks may not appear to be making any strides toward contention.  Despite their poor record and below-average scoring offense, however, they are the fastest-paced team in the league, and are sixth in three point attempts per game. First-year head coach Lloyd Pierce is laying down the foundation for an offensive explosion in the near future through a swift attack plan and a trigger-happy mindset from beyond the arc - the two areas which are the primary components of today’s NBA

In addition to this innovative style, the Hawks have a competent core that will be able to carry out this strategy. Centered around this core, of course, is rookie point guard Trae Young, who the Hawks traded for in last summer’s NBA Draft while obtaining an additional first-round pick in the process (we’ll get back to that later). Young is currently leading all rookies in assists per game, and is second on the team in scoring at 16 points per game. However, the enigmatic rookie has had his fair share of struggles, as he’s currently third in the NBA with 4.1 turnovers per game and is only making 30% of his three-point attempts. 

Despite his affinity for taking deep threes and energetic playmaking ability, Young is not Steph Curry, and should not be expected to become the legendary shooter that Curry has established himself as. With that being said, his shot selection should improve as he becomes more acquainted with NBA defenses, and his turnover rate should decrease as he allows the offense to sometimes flow around him rather than through him. And as a competitive individual who wants to win at the highest level, Young should be able to make these adjustments throughout his game over time, and elevate the Hawks’ dismal status as their guide towards basketball salvation.


Another rookie who has established himself as a part of the Hawks’ prospective nucleus is former Maryland wing Kevin Huerter. After November 25, 2018 - the date Huerter became a regular starter for Atlanta - he’s averaged 12 points, 3.5 assists, and one steal per game while shooting 41% from three. As a dynamic guard who threatens passing or shooting beyond the arc, he can become a solid wing scorer next to Young in the next few years as long as he continues to hit threes at a high rate and improve his ability finishing at the rim. 


The last, but certainly not least, piece of the Hawks’ young core is sophomore forward John Collins. The former second-round pick is averaging 19 points per game this season on 58% shooting, which is the ninth-highest mark in the NBA. Collins has shined on the glass as well, as he’s averaging double-digit rebounds this season to go with 3.8 offensive rebounds per game, the sixth-most in the league. And with his 2.4 assists per game average and near 35% three-point field goal percentage, the athletic forward should serve as a versatile big man to spread the ball, space the floor, and crash the glass for Atlanta.


As mentioned earlier, Atlanta received a protected top-five pick from the Dallas Mavericks when they swapped Luka Doncic for Young. Currently, the Mavericks have the seventh-worst record in the league and the Hawks have the fifth-worst, meaning they would have two potential top seven picks if the season ended today. Even if they don’t end up receiving the Mavericks pick (which they probably will given Doncic’s ability to carry Dallas towards semi-contention), the already budding core will be adding another prospect to their treasure trove of them, creating a frightening outlook for future Eastern Conference foes. With up to five foundational pieces to build around for the next decade or so, including three known commodities, the Hawks have a strong chance to develop from the ground up and blossom into a consistent contender.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-reference.com and NBA.com.



Edited by Brian Kang.

SQuiz
Before Kevin Huerter was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2018, who was the last Maryland player to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft?
Created 1/24/19
  1. Greivis Vasquez
  2. Jake Layman
  3. Alex Len
  4. Steve Francis

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