The NBA may resume the 2019-2020 season, but for teams outside of the playoff picture, it is over. The Hawks finished 20-47 — well below their expectations — following a close loss against the Knicks in what will be the final game of their season. However, several unforeseen factors went into that record, like John Collins’ 25-game suspension at the beginning of the campaign and multiple injuries, as well as some porous signings from Travis Schlenk last offseason. Still, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic as the Hawks move forward in their rebuild and aim to be a much more competitive squad next season.
Trae Young exploding
To me, Trae Young deserves the nod as the Most Improved Player. He went from an inconsistent rookie to an undisputed All-Star starter, and maybe even the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Young was a treat to watch every night as both a volume scorer and one of the best passers in the NBA, finishing the year averaging an absurd 29.6 points and 9.3 assists. There’s no disputing he has some areas to work on — like his turnovers and defense — but his season deserves nothing but an A+ grade. Young is the first superstar the Hawks have had since Dominique Wilkins, and the primary reason there is excitement around Hawks basketball again.
John Collins becoming an All-Star caliber player
Collins’ season couldn’t have started worse. He was suspended 25 games for a failed PED test and essentially cost the Hawks any chance they had of making the postseason. But what he did after that is all that matters. I wondered how much Collins could really build off being a 20 and 10 player in his sophomore year — where the next step would come from — but Collins showed improvements off the dribble in isolation situations and became a much better defender, an aspect of his game that was criticized greatly a year ago. As a result, he put up an ungodly stat line of 21.6 points on 58.3% from the field and 40.1% from behind the arc to go along with 10.1 rebounds per game. List of players to put up those numbers consists of just one player — John Collins.
Cam Reddish’s second half
It wasn’t all positive for Cam Reddish in his rookie season. In fact, there was probably more bad than good, but that’s not how rookie campaigns should be judged. The only thing people should look at is the progression, and Reddish went from one of the worst offensive players in the NBA to arguably the Hawks’ third-best scoring option. In February (9 games), he shot 44.1% from the field and 34.9% from three, averaging 13.4 points per game. March may have been cut short (4 games), but Reddish had a 55.1% from the field and 47.6% from deep while averaging over 17 points per game. This young man has superstar potential, and I’m expecting him to shine in year two.
The acquisition of Clint Capela
Outside of the improvements from the three players above, there wasn’t too much to be thrilled about regarding the Hawks’ season. The short-term free agents Travis Schlenk acquired failed, Kevin Huerter didn’t see the spike in production many expected, and the De’Andre Hunter trade doesn’t look great after his up and down rookie campaign. But there’s one more thing to be excited about heading into 2020, and that is the addition of Clint Capela. Although we didn’t get to see him in a Hawks uniform this season, he is going to fit in perfectly next to John Collins on both sides of the floor. His rim running will thrive with Trae Young at the point, and his defense in the paint is something the Hawks sorely missed all season. This was a fantastic move by Travis Schlenk, who did not have to give up much to acquire the 25-year-old big man.