The NBA season is right around the corner, and this is the most anticipated Hawks season in recent memory. Atlanta swung big and landed Dejounte Murray via trade this offseason, pairing Trae Young with the first All-Star of his career. De’Andre Hunter continues to flash but has been hampered by injuries. This was the first healthy offseason of the Virginia product’s career, and expectations are high. Clint Capela is finally healthy, and Onyeka Okongwu is primed for a breakout campaign after vowing to return with a jump shot. The Hawks have some dudes; it’ll be up to Nate McMillan to fit the pieces together.
On paper, Atlanta should be a shoo-in for the postseason. However, as we’ve seen in the past, it’s not always a guarantee. The personnel is the best it’s been in a long time, and the national outlets recognize that. Bleacher Report’s Top 100 NBA Players, a projection of the upcoming season, features six Hawks.
12. Trae Young
Trae Young is an offensive powerhouse. He’s going to generate most of his team’s offense as a scorer (28.4 points per game last season), shooter (38.2 percent from three) and playmaker (9.7 assists per night). But Young is not a high-impact defender with his slight build.
Recognizing the talent they have in Young, the Atlanta Hawks have worked to pair the 24-year-old guard with long, athletic defenders. The addition of Dejounte Murray, one of the better backcourt defenders in the league, should help balance Young’s limitations.
Murray also gives Atlanta another capable primary playmaker, which should prevent teams from sending nonstop traps to get the ball out of Young’s hands.
Young is finally earning some respect as the fourth-ranked point guard. Though, I’d argue he should be higher than Ja Morant. Ice Trae is as lethal of a passer as the NBA has and is no slouch as a scorer; all he did last year was lead the league in total points and assists. His new teammate was also among the top players on BR’s ranking.
36. Dejounte Murray
Highest Ranking: 23
Lowest Ranking: 55
The San Antonio Spurs traded Dejounte Murray (their best player) to the Atlanta Hawks to focus on rebuilding. He should be an excellent fit alongside the offensive-minded Trae Young. Murray can create points at a high level, but he’s also one of the better defenders at his position. Look for the Hawks to take a step forward this season with Murray.
Young and Murray complement each other perfectly. Both young stars ranked in the top five in the league in assists per game last season, but they’re entirely different players. Trae is a box office scorer, averaging 28.4 points last season, with unlimited shooting range but a small frame and is a defensive liability. Dejounte is a downhill scorer who finishes at the rim with conviction but is inconsistent from deep, shooting 33% from beyond the arc over his career. He’s a menacing defender with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that can cover up some of Young’s deficiencies on that end of the court.
60. John Collins
Highest Ranking: 44
Lowest Ranking: 98
The Atlanta Hawks need John Collins to stretch the floor and defend. His scoring output has dipped the last two seasons–which may be why the team was shopping him in trade over the offseason. A strong year from Collins could help catapult the Hawks up the standings in the East.
Collins is still a valuable piece; as I’ve said on multiple occasions, he can be the third option on a championship-caliber team. You would be hard-pressed to find a more efficient power forward in the Association, and his defense is more of an asset than a liability. He’s consistently improved his game every season, but most importantly, he’s a team-first player that will do anything to win games. Also, the pair of Collins and Young rank among the Association’s best duos in pick-and-roll efficiency.
Tie-76. Clint Capela
Highest Ranking: 52
Lowest Ranking: 119
Clint Capela is one of the better rebounders in the league (10.7 career rpg). He protects the basket well as a shot-blocker but doesn’t have the offensive range to stretch the floor for the Atlanta Hawks (zero career threes), keeping him in the lower quarter of the top 100.
Capela is one of the best defensive bigs in the NBA. His value as a defender and rebounder cannot be overstated with a point guard who is so offensively focused. In addition to those assets, Capela works incredibly hard on the offensive end with his screening and positioning in the half court; he makes an excellent partner for Young and Murray in pick-and-roll situations.
Highest Ranking: 64
Lowest Ranking: 129
The Atlanta Hawks will get most of their offense through their guards, with Bojan Bogdanović the top reserve at either the 1 or 2. If he can bring his three-point shot back up from 36.8 percent to near the 43.8 percent he shot two seasons ago, the Hawks will be a nightmare to stop.
Bogi has dealt with lingering knee issues and even had to miss Game 5 of the team’s first-round series against the Heat. He averaged 15.1 points and shot 36.8% from beyond the arc in about 30 minutes a night coming off the bench last season for Atlanta. Bogdanovic still has two years and $36 million remaining on his contract — the latter of which is a player option. On a team without many shooters, the Serbian Sniper will be critical in the Hawks goals this season.
99. De’Andre Hunter
Highest Ranking: 66
Lowest Ranking: 162
De’Andre Hunter barely cracks the top 100, a spot he’ll need to be in for the Atlanta Hawks to be one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. He’s still got some high-level three-and-D potential going into a contract year.
I described Hunter as the X-factor for the Hawks this season. He averaged 13.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting 44.2% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc last season. However, if his performance against Miami in the playoffs is a glimpse into the future, it should have Hawks fans salivating. Hunter averaged 21.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on 55.7% shooting from the field and 46.2% from three-point range in the series against the Heat.
Photo: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire