The 2018-2019 season was a special transitional year for the organization. Travis Schlenk made the most out of his three first-round picks, and although Atlanta didn’t make any splashes in free agency, the under the radar moves that they did make turned out better than many could have imagined. All of which led to the Hawks, who were projected to be the worst team in the NBA, smashing expectations in the second year of their rebuild.
Anderson was one of the pieces the Hawks got in return for Dennis Schroder. The key to that trade was Atlanta dumping the remainder of Schroder’s contract, allowing them to have significantly more cap space in free agency this summer, so that’s really what I’m grading this move on. The Hawks also netted a lottery protected first-round pick from the Thunder.
Anderson dealt with various injuries throughout the season, limiting him to 48 games. When on the court, he brought toughness, athleticism, and some streaky shooting. The Hawks can decide whether or not they want to pick up his qualifying offer of just over $3.5 million for next year. That might be why we saw him used in a starter’s role late last season.
Carter wasn’t brought in to help turn the Hawks into a playoff contender. His role was to tutor the plethora of young talent on the roster. Per usual, Carter excelled in that role, as he did with the Kings and Grizzlies. But what could not have been expected was his success on the court.
Carter, at 41 years old, had his best season since 2013-2014 with the Dallas Mavericks. He shot 41.9% from the field and a hair shy of 39% from three-point range. There was a point, with about ten games left in the season, that Carter was on pace for the best three-point shooting season of his entire career. It would have been difficult to ever label the signing of Carter as “bad,” but his noticeable improvement on the court earns the signing a well above average grade.
This was the Hawks only free agent signing of the offseason that had a chance of paying future benefits. Len is a former 5th overall by the Phoenix Suns. Like a lot of the Suns’ lottery picks, he never panned out in the desert; which allowed the Hawks to sign Len to a minuscule two-year, $8.5 million contract. It’s difficult imagining this deal working out any better for Atlanta.
For the first time in his career, Len was encouraged to expand his game past the three-point line. He had only attempted 25 threes in his NBA career before coming to Atlanta. He shot 2.6 a game in his first season with the Hawks.
Not only did he shoot it, but he shot it exceptionally well. The 7’1″ center from Ukraine finished the year with a 36.3 3-PT FG%. That led to him averaging the most points (11.1) and the highest PER (17.2) of his young career. Len has one-year remaining on his contract and should receive the opportunity to be the full-time starter next season. He fits like a glove in the Hawks’ offense and will only continue to develop in his second year with the team.
Spellman battled injuries (not his fault) and weight issues (his fault) in his rookie season with the Hawks. However, his 46 games in Atlanta did provide some hope that he can turn into a valuable piece down the road. The 6’9″ power forward can stroke it from deep and play above average defense. His biggest issue was focusing on being a professional and taking care of his body. There’s potential here, but it’s impossible to say which direction he goes after this roller coaster ride of a season.
Injuries cost Kevin Huerter his opportunity to compete in Summer League. His preseason failed to instill much confidence in anybody, even his coach. Lloyd Pierce admitted when he first saw Huerter he thought he was going to be a G-League player for most of the season. Little did we know, Huerter would quickly earn his way into the starting lineup and end up scoring the sixth most points on the team.
Huerter, a 6’7″ lanky shooting guard out of Maryland, is best known for one thing – his shooting stroke. He’s a sniper that can let it go from anywhere on the court. Pierce’s biggest challenge was convincing Huerter to shoot the ball more. As he found more confidence, it became easier for him to let them go. Still, the Hawks are going to want him to chuck up even more shots as he continues in his career.
There isn’t a grade high enough to give Trae Young’s rookie season. He faced his fair share of lumps at the beginning of the year, fought through them, and was arguably a top ten point guard in the entire NBA by the end of the season.
The former Oklahoma Sooner, fresh off leading the entire NCAA in scoring and assists (the first time that’s ever been done), finished the season averaging 19.1 points and 8.1 assists. To put that in perspective, Young averaged more points AND assists than Chris Paul, Steph Curry, and Magic Johnson did in their respective rookie campaigns. It’s unfortunate that he most likely will not receive the Rookie of the Year Award, but credit is rightfully being handed to Luka Doncic for his outstanding season.
That is no reason to be discouraged, however. Young’s second half gave the basketball world a glance of what is to come. There is no reason he can’t be a player that puts up 25-30 points a game, and scoring is not even his best attribute. Young is a bonafide playmaker with Steve Nash-like passing skills. He’s the type of player the best teams in the NBA are built around and gives the Hawks a glimmer of hope for the first time in decades.