The Hawks followed their two-game win streak to begin the season with back-to-back losses to the 76ers and Heat. More notably, their star point guard that has been carrying them through the first few games of the season went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter of Tuesday’s matchup with the Heat.
Young will be alright – the X-Rays and MRI were negative, and he reportedly already feels much better. However, the Hawks aren’t going to take any chances with him tonight. They know Young is the future of their franchise, but he should return sometime next week, as Atlanta takes on the Spurs, Bulls, and Kings – all at home.
Without their star point guard, the Hawks are beyond vulnerable. They lose their best player, and the backup point guard situation was already the worst aspect of their team. Evan Turner has filled in thus far, but his playmaking skills leave much to be desired. Cam Reddish can play the point at times, but he’s such a raw prospect at this stage of his rookie season. So look for DeAndre’ Bembry to receive extended minutes and serve as the primary ball-handler more than usual with Young out. He’s been fantastic off the bench through four games, averaging 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists with only 0.5 turnovers per contest.
In Young’s absence against the Heat, John Collins became the star of the show, and he’ll have to be that again for the Hawks to bounce back. The budding power forward set a career-high in three-pointers made with five of them on eight attempts, moving his 3PT FG% for the season to 50% on his way to a season-high 30 points. A lot of easy baskets are created for Collins by Youngs’ passing, but he’s been working tirelessly this offseason on improving his shooting and isolation game. Tonight is the perfect opportunity to show some of that off against a Miami team that is off to a blazing start.
The Heat are 3-1 and already look like a squad people should be paying attention to in the East. They acquired Jimmy Butler, but what has turned them into a potential threat are the additions of two rookies – Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Herro is a microwave that was selected #13th overall and is already outperforming his draft position, averaging 16.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. However, it’s been undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn that’s setting the world on fire. He’s started in all four games for the Heat and is averaging 21 points per contest on nearly 50% shooting from the field and 44% from three-point range.
Throw those two in with an already impressive core of Jimmy Butler, Justice Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Goran Dragic, and you’ve got yourself a possible threat in the Eastern Conference. Right now, the Heat have six players averaging 14.8 points or higher. This is a playoff team and a potential top-four seed in the Eastern Conference.
It is going to take a total team effort for the Hawks to pull off the upset with no Trae Young. We’ll see if they can rise to the occasion at 7:00 ET at State Farm Arena. The game will be broadcast on TNT.