Zack Buckley of Bleacher Report recently did a piece where he ranked the top ten young cores in the NBA, and the Hawks received some much-deserved respect after their Eastern Conference Finals run.
Bleacher Report’s top 10 young cores in the NBA
(Players under the age of 25)
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) August 24, 2021
I recently did something similar, except I focused on the top-five young cores, and I don’t think there’s any way the Hawks can be anywhere but the top spot. Trae Young is one of the best young players in the league, and he’s proven it on the biggest stage, but it’s the youthful depth on this team that puts them over the top.
Here’s an excerpt from Buckley’s piece:
Beyond Young, the Hawks have a near-All-Star in Collins, a 23-year-old averaging 19.3 points and 9.0 rebounds since the start of 2018-19. Hunter was busy turning heads before right knee injuries derailed his season, but he still hinted at a leap from a three-and-D wing to a three-level scorer who defends multiple spots. Huerter is a three-point sniper who also functions as a secondary playmaker and capable team defender.
That quartet alone might get the Hawks this spot, but their chance for core expansion cements it.
Reddish had his sophomore season thrown off course by injuries but remains an interesting source of defensive versatility and support scoring. Okongwu can defend from the paint to the perimeter and gets interesting in a hurry if he finds a three-ball. Johnson stampeded through Summer League and already proved he fell too far as the 20th pick.
I also did my piece before the Hawks were able to snag Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper in the draft. By most draft analysts, both picks were considered steals. Considering Travis Schlenk has really yet to miss in the draft, there’s reason to believe the Hawks young core will only be stronger in 2021-2022.
As far as the rest of the list, everybody else is battling for second. The Celtics are a little high for my taste, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are one of the best young tandems in the league. I have them and the Suns switched, but the rest of my top-five is exactly the same. The Pelicans and Grizzlies both seem to be a couple of pieces away from making a magical run of their own like the Hawks did this past season.