Despite all the noise surrounding the Hawks leading up to the trade deadline, they didn’t make the blockbuster splash that many speculated they might. Instead, they settled for a familiar face, bringing Lou Williams home in return for Rajon Rondo.
The vision for the Hawks moving forward is clear — score and score quickly from start to finish each night. Williams will certainly help in that department. He’s averaging 12.4 points and 3.4 assists in just 21.6 minutes per game this season. However, in the three seasons prior, Williams was even more of a threat coming off the bench — averaging 18.2, 20.0, and 22.6 points per game, respectively. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been involved as much with a new head coach in Los Angeles, but with the Hawks, he should pick up where he left off in 2020.
Beyond getting buckets, Williams also serves as the second playmaker that the Hawks desperately needed behind Trae Young. Rondo was supposed to be that guy, and while a lot of his struggles may have been due to injuries, he simply wasn’t cutting it. Williams should be a significant upgrade at point guard off the bench, leading a second unit filled with deadeye shooters.
Projected Second Unit 3-PT FG%
Lou Williams — 37.8%
Kevin Huerter — 36.8%
Tony Snell — 56.1%
Danilo Gallinari — 40.1%
That seems to be the Hawks’ blueprint following the trade deadline because they certainly will not improve defensively by switching Rajon Rondo for Lou Williams. Still, this feels like quite an upgrade; Williams may be having a down year (by his standards), but a change of scenery could do him wonders, and he’ll likely have a more substantial role in Atlanta.
But did the Hawks do enough to establish themselves as a clear playoff team in the East? Williams will provide a boost, but the rest of the conference didn’t exactly sit on their hands.
As it stands today, the Bulls look to be the biggest winners of the deadline. They were able to pry Nikola Vucevic away from the Magic, who will instantly upgrade their frontcourt and be a thrill to watch with Zach LaVine. He was the best player to move at the deadline, averaging nearly 25 points and 12 rebounds per game while shooting over 40% from behind the arc. Chicago also acquired Al Farouq Aminu, Troy Brown, Daniel Theis, and Javonte Green. Even though they currently are the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference, they are just 2.5 games behind the Hawks with a lot of meat left on the schedule.
As always, Pat Riley was active at the trade deadline, with his blockbuster addition coming just before the bell. Oladipo may not be the same player he once was, but he’s still good for 20+ points and 5+ assists a game while playing above-average defense. Oh, and of course, the Heat gave up absolutely nothing to bring him in, sending Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk to the Rockets (don’t even get me started). Miami also added Nemanja Bjelica from the Kings, who is a respectable stretch-four. The Heat were in the NBA Finals last season, are tied with the Hawks in the standings, and just added two significant pieces — one being an All-Star caliber player. That will be tough for Atlanta to keep up with down the stretch.
Like the Hawks, the Celtics were involved in several blockbuster rumors leading up to the trade deadline, and while none of those came to fruition, they still added a valuable player for essentially nothing. Evan Fournier is averaging 19.7 points and 3.7 assists per game this season on very solid shooting percentages. We already knew Boston had a playoff-caliber roster; now, they’re even better and sit just a game behind the Hawks in the standings.
The rest of the Eastern Conference contenders surrounding the Hawks — like the Pacers, Knicks, and Hornets — stayed relatively quiet ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. But looking at the big picture, would I consider Atlanta winners? I would say slightly because Williams fills a bigger need on the team than Rondo did, resulting in more wins during the regular season.
However, Playoff Rondo is undoubtedly a real thing, and I believe Hawks fans are undervaluing just how much he can bring to a team when fully healthy, and all the chips are on the line. The Hawks certainly won’t go down as losers at the deadline, but several other contenders — especially the better ones — made more impactful moves.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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