After five games, Hawks fans were sure they were going to the NBA Finals. They are now beginning to wonder if this is the same team from last season after blowing back-to-back 15-point second-half leads to the miserable Knicks and Cavs. The truth is they are probably somewhere right in the middle, and now that we’ve had a glimpse of this new-look squad, here’s what I think this team and some of the individuals will accomplish over this shortened 72-game season.
Trae Young makes the First or Second All-NBA Team
At first, I thought about going bold and betting on Young to win the MVP, but there are just way too many great talents out there. I don’t think the Hawks will win enough, or he will play good enough defense to make that kind of jump in his third season. Still, I only expect him to get better as the year goes on. Young has a legit shot of averaging 30 points and 10 assists, which should at least put him on the All-NBA Second Team — if not the First.
De’Andre Hunter establishes himself as a piece of the future
I didn’t really know how to phrase this because I didn’t want to go as far as to say Hunter will be an All-Star, but he is going etch his name on the Hawks starting small forward spot for years to come. Check this graph out:
Through games on Jan. 4, which second-year players have done the most (or least) with their minutes during the 2020-21 #NBA season? pic.twitter.com/sSqkKGCz2o
— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) January 5, 2021
After last year’s scorching hot stretch to end the season, I thought it would be Reddish establishing himself as an All-Star of the future. That still might happen, but Hunter looks extremely confident early on this season, and I don’t think it is a fluke.
The bench establishes itself as the best in the league
I’m not sure what other teams are contending for this title off the top of my head, but I’m confident enough in the Hawks second unit (when fully healthy) against anybody. Playoff Rondo is a real thing, Danilo Gallinari is a borderline All-Star caliber player, Bogdan Bogdanović could start on 25 teams in the league, and so could Kevin Huerter. The Hawks also have Kris Dunn, rookie sixth overall pick Onyeka Okongwu, Tony Snell, and Solomon Hill. It may not seem like it now because the team is so banged up, but there isn’t a deeper roster from top to bottom.
The Hawks make the playoffs
Atlanta is currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. However, when you look behind them, Brooklyn, Toronto, Washington, and Miami — all who expect to make the playoffs — are lurking. Sure, the Knicks and Cavs — who are ahead of the Hawks — will probably fall back over the course of the season, but this isn’t the Eastern Conference of years past. If you make the playoffs, you’re a good team. I won’t say the Hawks will get a top-four seed, but they should settle somewhere between 5-8.
The Hawks win a playoff series
I know the Hawks have looked discouraging in the last two games, but I still believe in this group. They can get buckets for days, and they should only get better defensively as they get healthy and develop chemistry. Superstars, depth, and versatility play come the postseason, and the Hawks have all three of those things. They may not have experience on their side, but they won’t be intimidated by anyone, making them a tough out. I think they win at least one playoff series, which could be enough to warrant Lloyd Pierce an extension.
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