Hawks: The Kids Are Alright

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The Hawks just finished one heck of a west coast swing in their schedule. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that bad of a California road trip, which didn’t include a pit stop at Spahn Ranch. A 49-point loss to the Clippers, 21-point loss to the Lakers, and a few box scores that need to be forgotten ASAP.

However, I’m here to remind everyone that the young Hawks are alright. I don’t mean it in the sense that the rebuild is progressing ahead of schedule (which it is), but rather this team can still salvage this season and be in the mix for a playoff spot come spring.

If I had told you on opening night, that the following events would take place: Trae Young would suffer an ankle injury, John Collins would be suspended, Kevin Huerter would miss significant time due to a shoulder injury, and Vince Carter wouldn’t make a road trip due to personal issues. You probably wouldn’t believe the Hawks are 1.5 games out of the 8th spot.
It’s early in the season, and some of the numbers are disconcerting – a .308 winning percentage, -9.4 average point differential, and a scary bad team offense rating (29th in the league). Plus, the eye test has left us needing Visine a few nights this season.

So why am I so high on this Hawks team? Literally, everything has gone wrong so far, and the culture implemented by Coach Pierce, and bought into by the players, has kept the Hawks afloat. We haven’t seen the team quit or lack effort, and there has been zero drama, which isn’t easy amid a losing streak.

If the Hawks had to pick a month for everything to hit the fan, November would be the perfect time for it. It’s early in the season, most of the games are against Western Conference opponents, and they were unlikely to win a lot of those matchups anyway. After the All-Star Break, the schedule is a cakewalk. The goal should be to survive this month and continue to build team chemistry.

Beyond anecdotal evidence, Trae Young could be on his way to his first All-NBA selection. Last week, Trae notched his second career 40-point, 10-assist game. The only other players to do that before turning 22 are Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Not to mention, averaging 27/8/4 isn’t too shabby of a stat line.

The rookies and newcomers are gaining a lot of experience while the team deals with depth issues. De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and most notably Bruno Fernando have been developing before our eyes. Once the cavalry returns, their roles will be more proportionate and appropriate for their experience.

Many of the newcomers were also sidelined by injuries to start the season, but they are shaking the rust off and will serve as valuable contributors as time goes on. E.T., Allen Crabbe, Alex Len, and Damian Jones have proven they still have gas left in the tank. Not to mention, Jabari Parker has enjoyed a renaissance in Atlanta and is outperforming his career averages.

The Hawks have had a lot of luck; unfortunately, it’s all been bad. What this team needs is time and a chance to get healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they turn things around by January, and perhaps even make some moves at the trade deadline in February. For now, stay patient and remember the kids are alright.

 

(@Pat_Benson_Jr)

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