The Atlanta Hawks are up there with the biggest disappointments in the NBA this season. After acquiring Dejounte Murray from the Spurs, the expectations were for this organization to take the next step in contending. They are only a couple of years removed from making the Eastern Conference Finals, and Murray provided Trae Young with the first All-Star teammate of his career. But after starting the season 17-20, the Hawks are at a crossroads, and they don’t have much time to figure things out.
Atlanta currently sits ninth in the Eastern Conference — a familiar place for them over the last two seasons. They are 3.5 games behind the Pacers for the sixth seed, which would get them out of the play-in tournament.
It hasn’t all been negative for the Hawks this season, despite their lousy record. Murray has come as advertised, even if the fit between him and Trae Young has been wonky at times. Clint Capela has been arguably the best player on the team, and A.J. Griffin looks to have a real future in Atlanta. When everyone has been healthy, things have clicked at times.
Unfortunately, nobody on this team seems capable of staying healthy, which has led to abysmal performances and, eventually, turmoil. There have been rumors about Trae Young not getting along with Nate McMillan, as well as other teammates. I’m not quite sure how much truth there is to those rumblings, but it shouldn’t shock anyone if McMillan is out as head coach by tomorrow. Unfortunately, that will only be the first domino of many to fall.
With Young and Murray in the fold, it’s difficult imagining the Atlanta Hawks going through a complete rebuild, but they might not have a choice. If things continue to trend in this direction leading up to the trade deadline, which is a little over a month from today, substantial changes must be made. While it will probably be more of a re-tool rather than a rebuild, the club may just be postponing the inevitable because, eventually, they have to see success with Murray and Young or move on from one of them.
It seems almost unimaginable that Atlanta would trade Young. He brought a pulse to this entire organization. I still see it as a last resort, but I no longer believe it’s out of the realm of possibility. There’s a scenario where the organization is tired of Young’s antics and thinks Murray would be easier to build around. Young would also fetch a lot more in a potential trade, which would kickstart any potential rebuild.
I don’t think that’s a decision the Atlanta Hawks will have to make before the trade deadline, but other pieces like John Collins surely will be on the move within the next month if the team doesn’t turn this around. Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and De’Andre Hunter also could find new homes. These next few weeks are a pivotal moment in Atlanta Hawks franchise history — for better or for worse.
Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire
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