For most Atlanta Hawks fans, this offseason has not been fun. Fans saw the Hawks trade Dwight Howard, let Tim Hardaway Jr. sign with the Knicks, and decide not to re-sign the best player on the team for the last four seasons in Paul Millsap. All of this was done in the very early stages of new general manager Travis Schlenk’s tenure with the team. Hawks fans are wary of the team going into full rebuild mode and possibly having a bad season or two while doing so. Despite all of this, there is one thing Hawks fans should be absolutely thrilled about right now: the Hawks summer league team.
Yes that’s right, the summer league team. A team of young players playing in games that don’t count while we wait for the real season to come back. In case you did not watch, the Hawks may very well have some young future stars on their team that can get them back to being a consistent playoff contender sooner rather than later.
Several sports sites and analysts said back on draft night that the Hawks may have gotten the steal of the draft when the team drafted John Collins from Wake Forest with the 19th pick. If the early summer league games are any indication of Collins’ potential going forward, then he may very well be the steal of the 2017 NBA draft. Per stats provided by NBA.com, in 5 summer league games, Collins is averaging 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is also putting up those numbers while only playing 23 minutes per game. Add to that the impressive stat of shooting 60% from the field. Collins’s versatility on the court could make him an ideal stretch 4 in Mike Budenholzer’s system and give the Hawks a young piece to build around in the future.
Two other players to watch are the Hawks’ two draft picks from the 2016 NBA Draft: Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry. Prince, after emerging as a starter for the Hawks late last season, is averaging double figures scoring numbers in summer league play as he looks to take the next step as one of the Hawks’ playmakers. Prince’s length and athletic ability are part of the reason he was able to play at a good level so early in his NBA career. The summer league will only aid in his development. Bembry, who spent time last year with the Hawks and in the D-League, is playing equally as impressive as John Collins. Bembry is averaging 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game in summer league play while shooting nearly 57% from the field.
The Hawks may not contend for an NBA title in the next couple of seasons, but fans should be optimistic about the team’s future with the crop of young talent it has showing promising signs in the summer league. Given Mike Budenholzer’s long history of being able to develop young players into great NBA players, the so-called “rebuild” in Atlanta could be shorter than some think.
Disclaimer: All stats mentioned in this article are provided by NBA.com