Whew, what a year it has been for the Hawks. Injuries, a major suspension, and roster reconstruction were cause for a lot of losing. However, there have also been plenty of bright spots. Trae Young emerged as an All-Star, the front office has ultimate cap flexibility, and there are waves of rookies and draft picks coming in as reinforcements.
To make the jump in 2020, the Hawks front office must make some New Year’s resolutions and stick to them. As you can imagine, it begins and ends with how they manage the roster.
GET TRAE HELP
Trae has more patience than any of us. It took him until December 9th to voice his frustration with the roster. Plenty of people questioned the roster moves this past summer, but G.M. Travis Schlenk deserves a pass on the signings since he was clearly aiming for maximum cap flexibility in 2020.
Well, 2020 is here. The free agents this summer aren’t as spectacular as last year, but there are still plenty of players who would make a good Robin to Trae’s Batman.
[For the sake of saving 3,000 words, let’s omit restricted free agents from this conversation].
Top unrestricted free agent targets could include; Clippers PF Montrezl Harris, Wizards PF Davis Bertans, and Nets SG Joe Harris. If none of those players sign, then there are still dozens of low-maintenance role players that the Hawks could sign to short deals.
There is also another option for Atlanta if they don’t like this free agency class. They could trade for disgruntled stars on rebuilding teams (cough cough Karl-Anthony Towns cough cough). Not to mention they have plenty of young players and draft picks they can package if they want to reel in a big fish.
FIX THE DEFENSE
The Hawks will not make the playoffs until they fix their defense. Currently, they sit in the bottom-3 of the league for defensive rating, opponent points per game, and opponent plus/minus.
Getting Trae some help might mean adding some low-maintenance players that can help him out on defense. Pacers SG Justin Holiday or Pelicans SG E’Twaun Moore could be some cost-effective additions this summer.
Defensive rebounding and second-chance points have hamstrung the Hawks as well this season. John Collins is only one man, and his energy can only carry the team so far. Luckily, this upcoming free agency class is stacked with post players who would fit in well with him.
Roster moves aside; defense starts with accountability. No matter who the Hawks pick up in 2020, there must be an emphasis on making stops and not allowing second-chance points.
The only thing more disheartening than the porous defense is how sloppy the Hawks are with the rock. Obviously, Trae gets a lot of the blame. But he also plays 35 minutes per game and has one of the highest usage rates in the league.
Besides Trae, there are plenty of other positions that need to be more accountable. The rookie wings, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter are turning the ball over about 1.8 times per game (tied for the 6th most turnovers among rookies).
The bigs are having trouble bringing in passes and avoiding silly mistakes. Alex Len and Bruno Fernando could improve in this area. I know Trae’s stat line would appreciate it.
KEEP THE RFA’S
As I said, the Hawks New Year’s Resolutions should begin and end with how they construct the roster. There are four players on the team who will be Restricted Free Agents this summer. (SF DeAndre’ Bembry, C Damian Jones, PG Brandon Goodwin, and PF Charlie Brown Jr.)
Some or all of those players could come back next year depending on their continued progress, and how big of a swing the front office takes this offseason.
Personally, I’m not ready to move on from Bembry and Jones. They are good role players for what they make (less than $2 million a year). Hopefully, they can continue to provide a spark off the bench next season.
As for Goodwin and Brown, they haven’t seen much playing time. Although both have played well when they do see action in Atlanta. And both have excelled in College Park for the Skyhawks. They could help fill out the roster in 2020.
Despite all the losing, it’s an exciting time to be a Hawks fan. The team has an elite point guard, an identity, and plenty of money to spend this offseason. What New Year’s resolutions would you add to this list?