Despite having the fourth-worst record in the league, on any given night, the Hawks have the talent to blow out a quality opponent. As far as rebuilding teams are concerned, they are among the best, featuring an ultra-talented young core centered around two young stars in John Collins and Trae Young, and two budding rookies — De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
However, the team is painfully inconsistent, which is somewhat expected for a squad that features so much youth. The Hawks have been blown out by the likes of the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. They can’t buy a win on the road, and you never know what kind of night it is going to be before tip-off. Things almost have to go perfect for them to claim victory. With so much raw talent, one has to ask themselves why haven’t the Hawks been able to put together a string of consistent play — even since John Collins returned to the court?
The primary culprit has to be their youth — the same thing that has many so giddy for the future. The Hawks are the 12th youngest team in the NBA, with their average age being 25.2, but keep in mind that Vince Carter, at age 43, has dramatically inflated this statistic. Their entire starting lineup is age 22 or younger, so regardless of the talent level, it is going to be challenging for any team to win consistently, especially on the road, with so little experience.
Don’t believe me? The Celtics and Pacers are the only teams younger than the Hawks that are above .500 and poised for a playoff berth. The oldest squads in the league? Try, in order, the Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and the Toronto Raptors. This is no coincidence; the oldest teams are the ones that are going to be competing for championships.
If the Hawks want to take the next step and emerge as a potential playoff team in 2020-21, they are going to have to add some veterans to the mix who can play quality minutes. They already went out and acquired a slightly older starting center in 25-year old Clint Capela. Perhaps they move some of their young core for another starting piece around the same age this summer. But as far as the roster is built from the bottom up, they will have to add some more experienced players to help move the needle, especially ones that can help off the bench.
Age aside, the Hawks need better role pieces. They did a decent job solidifying the center position, but they must go out and find some guys who can defend and shoot the ball. The Hawks rank dead last in three-point shooting percentage and are among the worst defensive teams in the league. If they had some deadly shooters to pair with Trae Young’s passing ability, he would average a double-double with ease.
In the past few years, the Hawks have made the right moves, allocating roster spots to young players as they attempt to develop them. However, if the playoffs are the goal, they will have to shift focus and fill the roster with more quality veterans this offseason. At season’s end, the front office will have the opportunity to rebuild the bench completely, with Jeff Teague, De’Andre Bembry, Skal Labissiere, Damian Jones, and Treveon Graham all hitting free agency, and Vince Carter retiring. The Hawks will also have the most cap space in the NBA to spend. They should likely go as short-term as possible, as financial flexibility is crucial. But if Atlanta signs some veteran pieces, that compounded with another year of experience for their young core, should have them primed for their first playoff appearance of the Trae Young era.