The Hawks 2019-2020 season didn’t come close to expectations and then came to an abrupt halt as coronavirus swept through the nation. It began about as awful as it could — with John Collins being suspended for PEDs and Kevin Huerter missing time with a shoulder injury — and ended with a heartbreaking loss to the lowly Knicks in overtime (although Trae Young did put up one of the most spectacular individual performances in franchise history, scoring 27 points in the fourth quarter to help the Hawks roar back and force OT). Still, even though things didn’t go according to plan, the Hawks have a lot to look forward to as they aim to become a much more competitive team next season.
We saw what they could do when John Collins is healthy. Now, they just have to build around their youthful, talented duo. They could become a force in the Eastern Conference overnight, but this offseason is a borderline must-nail, or significant changes within the organization could result.
Nail the draft
I’m not entirely sold the Hawks hang onto this pick. This is an extremely top-heavy draft, so if they land somewhere outside of the top three or four picks, they may choose to use it as trade bait along with other assets to land another superstar and make a real run at a wide-open Eastern Conference. However, if they do decide to keep their selection, this is indisputably the most critical piece to the offseason. There are virtually no superstar free agents worth chasing, so the best way to inch their way closer to their goals is by bringing in another budding star through the draft. Travis Schlenk has proven to be a wizard when it comes to evaluating talent, dating back to his days with Golden State, so Hawks fans should feel confident with the wand in his hands.
Add impact veterans
For many games last season, the Hawks didn’t have a starter over 22 years of age, and they didn’t have many older guys coming off the bench either — outside of Vince Carter — who probably played one more year than he should have. Clint Capela will change that a little, but even he will only be 26 next season. Atlanta has to add guys who have been around the block a bit that can make an impact every night, whether it be off the bench or in the starting lineup. That hasn’t been a priority the last few offseasons, but with the team altering their mindset towards competing, it has to be.
The Hawks have been one of — if not — the worst defensive team over the last two years. It’s embarrassing to watch their effort on that side of the ball, so this comes down to two things. First, they have to bring in guys with a defense-first mindset. Capela is a start in the paint, but they need to add better perimeter defenders. Secondly, they might need to fire their head coach. I’m going to go into more detail on that at a later date. I have no issues with Lloyd Pierce, the person, but whatever he’s teaching these young guys about defense and effort simply is not getting through, and it could not be any more obvious. Perhaps he deserves one more shot, considering all the obstacles the Hawks faced this season, but he is and should be on thin ice.
It’s almost a bit bizarre, considering how fast-paced the Hawks play and how many threes they chuck up each game, but they were the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA this season, making just 33.3% of their shots from behind the arc as a team. That’s not a recipe for success in the NBA, and if the Hawks are going to continue to play this way (which they should), they need to add more shooters — particularly off the bench.