There aren’t enough expletives in the dictionary to verbalize the frustration Hawks fans are feeling right now. A season where the team won fewer games, despite the marked individual improvement, ended abruptly. To add insult to injury, the league is throwing a 22-team party at Disney World, and the Hawks invite must have gotten lost in the mail.
Still, there are several reasons why Atlanta fans should be excited about the future. Trae Young is an All-Star (let that resonate), cap space, draft picks, and a solid young core. But for every reason for optimism, unanswered questions linger around the most crucial offseason in team history.
The Hawks won’t play another meaningful game until the 2020-2021 season begins in late December. That’s nine months from their last contest on March 11th. I’m sure the league will develop a plan for the organizations left out of the re-start plan to get back together, practice, and perhaps scrimmage other teams. Otherwise, the long layoff will stunt the growth of such a young team.
Not to mention, no summer league this year. Rookies, G-Leaguers, and young players rely on playing hoops in Sin City during July to make their case for a better role on the team come fall. Workouts and mini-camps will be critical for making roster decisions.
General Manager Travis Schlenk lined everything up for a splashy free agency period this summer. The Hawks have ultimate cap flexibility — they could sign max-contract players (unlikely), surround Trae/John/Clint (“Run TJC” — let’s try to get that nickname off the ground) with help, or absorb disgruntled stars through trades.
I’m not Nate Duncan, but it’s safe to assume the salary cap for every team will be unrecognizable after the dramatic drop in league revenue. The league will be forced to come up with another plan (if not a whole new CBA) for player salaries.
The one bit of definitive news is that the draft lottery is scheduled for August 25th, and the draft itself will be on October 15th. Draft order? To be determined. Currently, the Hawks have the 4th-worst record in the league (behind Minnesota, Cleveland, and Golden State).
Regardless of how the draft order is determined, the Hawks will likely have a top-5 pick. If that’s the case, there are some high-quality prospects and some thirsty teams willing to trade up (i.e., New York Knicks). Again, ultimate flexibility — which is valuable given an uncertain salary-cap situation across the league.
Ok, it’s not actually the final word because we still have several months of uncertainty that lie ahead. The Hawks offseason isn’t going to be as pretty as we had expected at the beginning of 2020. There are serious hurdles to clear to make the jump next season. Nevertheless, the Hawks are well-positioned to go from lottery team to playoff contender. It all relies on their nimble front-office to pull the trigger on a series of smart moves during this boom or bust period.