Hawks fans have had similar feelings in each of the last three seasons.
Following the Eastern Conference Finals run in which Nate McMillan took over midseason, fans had optimism they had the right coach in the building. McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce and led Atlanta within a couple of games of the Finals.
The 2021-22 campaign didn’t net better results, but Hawks fans’ hopes were resurrected when the club swung a deal to acquire Dejounte Murray from the Spurs, giving Trae Young the first All-Star teammate of his career. The excitement around Atlanta was palpable.
The 2022-23 campaign may have been even more disappointing than the year prior. The Hawks broke records for being mediocre, but that was the least of the club’s worries.
Travis Schlenk stepped away out of nowhere and shortly after, McMillan followed suit. Tony Ressler had ousted the general manager who drafted Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, Oyneka Okongwu, and Jalen Johnson. Finding lottery talent isn’t what makes GMs; it’s their work outside of the lottery, and Schlenk consistently found high quality players.
The state of the franchise had never been this low in the Trae Young era, and then the Hawks made an in-season hire, bringing Quin Snyder off his couch and into a playoff push, giving the fan base hope once again.
The former Jazz head coach took over for Joe Prunty, McMillan’s interim, and led Atlanta to a first-round exit, including pushing the Celtics to a Game 6. It was an encouraging ending to a forgettable season.
Now, we are sitting where we were a couple of years ago thinking that the Hawks finally have the right head coach in the building. Hopes are high for the Quin Snyder era, but what are realistic expectations?
Well, on paper, they shouldn’t be much better considering the personnel is eerily similar to last year. However, one difference could prove to have a rippling effect on the Hawks.
John Collins is out, and Jalen Johnson is in. The versatile forward might not start over Saddiq Bey, but he’ll garner most of the minutes vacated by Collins. It’s not on many people’s radars right now, but it could end up being one of those addition-by-subtraction situations.
Regardless, most of the hope rests on the shoulders of Quin Snyder, who has already made his mark on the organization. Dejounte Murray and Onyeka Okognwu surprisingly bypassed their respective free agency and signed extremely team-friendly contract extensions.
But what about the results on the court?
After going 41-41 last season, Vegas doesn’t expect much improvement. The over/under win projection for most sports books sits around 42.5. In Snyder’s first two seasons with the Jazz, he led Utah to an underwhelming 78-86 record but followed it up with an impressive 51-31 record in his third season.
How quickly, if at all, can Snyder get the Hawks to that level?
“It’s hard to say,” Snyder told Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, who asked if the Utah time frame is a fair comparison in Atlanta. “I try not to go back and analyze that stuff too much, but admittedly we have in certain things because some things are consistent with a young team. Habits and training. That third year you started to see some of those things come together with continuity. Hopefully, our timetable is quicker than that.”
This Hawks club is a play-in team with the wrong coach in the building, so what is the right coach worth? The obvious answer would be a top six seed, avoiding the play-in tournament. Those are realistic expectations for Quin Snyder’s Hawks.
Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire