Hawks: Disappointing season ends with a lot of questions that need to be answered

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In Game 5, the Hawks wasted a career night from De’Andre Hunter, who finished with 35 points and 11 rebounds, falling to the Heat 97-94 in what will be the final game of a forgetful season.

The series against Miami did not go as expected. Most figured the Heat would advance, but I don’t think anybody imagined Trae Young would struggle the way that he did. Some of the credit has to go to Miami, who devised a perfect game plan for one of the most explosive offensive players in the NBA, but Young must also shoulder a lot of the blame, who put together the worst five-game stretch of his career since his rookie season.

With that being said, Young is the last thing the Hawks have to worry about going into the summer. He’s proven to be a bonafide superstar, despite the abysmal performance against the Heat. It’s everything else around Young that the Hawks must figure out if they want to take the next step.

You could argue that, outside of Young, no single player on the Hawks progressed this season. In fact, it would actually be easier to argue that every other player regressed.

Besides last night’s performance, Hunter made no strides offensively and was worse defensively. Kevin Huerter has looked like the same player for the last three seasons. Capela and Collins both took steps backward, even if injuries did play a part, and we barely even saw rookies Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper. Of the younger players, Onyeka Okongwu probably made the most progress, but even he was a bit underwhelming in his second season. Still, it’s not all gloomy news for the Hawks.

There’s no questioning that this team has some high-quality pieces, but there’s also no questioning that significant changes must be made if Atlanta wants to become a legitimate championship contender. It will be up to Travis Schlenk to decipher who should stay and who should go this offseason, and the good news is that all of the Hawks’ contracts are easily moveable. There’s not a player on the roster that other teams won’t be interested in trading for. Now, not all of them will fetch a king’s ransom in return; in fact, most of them won’t, but that flexibility is vital to upgrading during the offseason.

Travis Schlenk remains in an enviable position. Many GMs around the league would love to have the opportunity to tinker with the Hawks roster this summer. But now more than ever, there is pressure on Schlenk to improve substantially. Ownership is desperate to win, and they won’t tolerate another lackluster season in 2022-2023. The Hawks need to find another star player to put next to Trae Young, they need to better establish an identity, and they must get better defensively. ¬†Expect substantial changes this offseason, which should make this an exciting summer for Atlanta basketball fans.

Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

 

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