Hawks ‘stuck in neutral’ in ESPN’s franchise overhaul tiers

NBA: JAN 08 Hawks at Clippers

The worst place to be in the NBA is on the treadmill, never good enough to actually compete for championships but never bad enough to land a franchise-altering player in the draft. That’s where the Hawks have been for years; however, that’s changed.

Atlanta has consistently been a play-in team since going to the Eastern Conference Finals, just constantly on the hamster wheel. The club thought a blockbuster trade for Dejounte Murray would change things a couple of offseasons ago. That didn’t work, which prompted them to change coaches, hiring the offensive-minded Quin Snyder, but not even he has been able to make the pairing of Murray and Trae Young look competent.

The Hawks caught a break, though. With just a 3% chance of winning this year’s lottery, Atlanta did the improbable, winning the No. 1 pick for the first time in franchise history. There’s still plenty of work to do, but they finally have the opportunity to get themselves out of neutral, which is ironic.

In an assessment of every NBA club, ESPN’s Tim BontempsĀ put the Hawks in the ‘stuck in neutral’ tier.

What’s next: Atlanta beat the odds to leapfrog to the top of this year’s draft, which, even in an underwhelming lottery, is still a boon for a Hawks team that hoped to be firmly in the playoffs before falling in the play-in. But beyond deciding who to take at the top of the draft, the other obvious question looming over the Hawks is whether to move on Dejounte Murray or Trae Young after the blockbuster trade to acquire Murray from the Spurs has delivered two early postseason exits.

The first domino to fall for the Hawks this offseason is Wednesday’s No. 1 overall pick. Draft experts believe they’re down to two prospects — Donovan Clingan and Zaccharie Risacher. A lot of that stems from Atlanta being unable to get Alex Sarr into the building for a workout, as rumors surface that his camp doesn’t want him to be a Hawk.

However, that’s hardly the only domino, and it’s certainly not the biggest as Bontemps notes. The most significant decision of the offseason for the Hawks is whether they’ll trade Trae Young or Dejounte Murray. There are valid reasons to build around both too.

Past that domino, Landry Fields will have to listen to trade offers on Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter, potentially extend Jalen Johnson, and completely retool the roster if need be.

Suffice to say, this is a monumental offseason for the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently stuck in neutral.

Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire


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