The article you are about to read is going to be a very selfish one. The reason I say that it is because its sole purpose is so that I have digitized prove of this statement that yes, I am, and have always been, a fan of the Atlanta Hawks.
Why would I need to have written proof somewhere that indicates my devotion? The ATL is home to a team with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference (almost the whole league), and at times this year, I’ve had to tape my eyes back to finish a game. Well, the reason why I have to put my fandom in writing is because — starting next season — the Hawks will return to not only their former glory of making the playoffs every year from 2008-2017 (Shout out to ISO Joe, Josh Smith, and the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January 2015), but they will be more of a title contender than they’ve been since the turn of the century.
Even Skip Bayless might mock this claim about a team that lost to the Knicks by 23 earlier this season and is 15-41 overall. However, it isn’t that far-fetched on second thought. Here’s why its best to hop on the bandwagon now before we are riding over the rest of the league.
Future MVP Trae Young
Trae Young is not only an All-Star starter, but he is putting up historical numbers that have only been seen by the likes of a handful of NBA players. He will have a statue right beside Dominique’s if the Oklahoma product continues at his current pace. Not only are the numbers ridiculous for Trae, but he has shown his dedication to the city by eliminating almost 1 million dollars of medical debt for residents in the area. Young has thrived in Atlanta and shown no indication of leaving, especially if Travis Schlenk and the front office provide help for the young superstar.
Front Office Wizardry
Clint Capela is far from the only answer to solving this team’s problems, but he is one of them. Capela will thrive in the pick and roll with a point guard who is averaging the 2nd most assists in the league and will be a much-needed defensive force in the paint. Through the season so far, Capela is averaging 1.8 blocks per game with 9.5 defensive rebounds. The Switzerland native has proven to be a double-double machine — the kind that only a terminator could destroy.
While the addition of Capela will make an impact, it is the fact that the front office took the initiative to find Trae Young some help that is so encouraging to me. The Hawks’ star player made his frustrations known, and Travis Schlenk listened by acquiring an elite big man at the bargain price of Evan Turner and the Nets’ first-round pick. If the front office continues to maximize its resources while bringing in much-needed players, the Atlanta Hawks will be contenders frequently in a few years. With a predicted high pick in this year’s draft, another critical contributor could be added on June 25th, and if we’ve learned anything about Schlenk thus far, scouting young players is where he thrives. The Hawks will also have a ton of cap space this summer and could have even more in 2021, when stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo will hit the market.
Finally, there’s the Hawks inexperienced core, the players who will be lifting Trae on their shoulders after a championship and knocking down his no-look dishes. These players will be key to the success going forward, and a primary reason why the bandwagon will be rolling at full-speed.
Kevin Huerter is a sniper, knocking down 39.2% of his shots from behind the arc this season, and those numbers have been even better of late. He is averaging 16.1 points over his last eight games, scoring double digits in each contest, while shooting 44.1% from the field and 40% from three-point range. Red Velvet is also a much better playmaker than people give him credit for. His game is made for today’s NBA, and he’s an ideal fit next to Trae Young, forming a splash brothers duo reminiscent of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State
John Collins might be an All-Star if he didn’t miss 25 games due to suspension, and he looks even better in his third season after a breakout sophomore campaign. The Wake Forest standout plays above the rim and has grabbed a career-high 10.2 rebounds per game while continuing to progress as a three-point shooter.
Cam Reddish has shown just a glimpse of all that he is capable of, hitting 40% of his shots from three in January, all while providing excellent defensive minutes. His numbers over the entire season leave much to be desired, but I could see him exploding in the second half of this year before a second season that could see him become a rising star. And De’Andre Hunter is still being slept on despite being taken 4th overall in last year’s draft. He already looks like an established NBA player, and while his defense hasn’t quite lived up to the hype yet, I expect it to as his career continues.