With two games left until the All-Star break and two-thirds of the NBA season behind us, we have a good idea of what to expect on a nightly basis from the most recent draft class. The Hawks were blessed with three first-round draft picks last year, and two of them (Trae Young, Kevin Huerter) have already turned into starters with Omari Spellman contributing off the bench. It could wind up being the draft class that turns the Hawks organization around.
But for that to happen, these players are going to have to improve in the following areas.
Season averages: 16.9 points, 40.8 FG%, 31.4 3-PT FG%, 7.6 assists, 4.0 turnovers, and 3.3 rebounds
For all the grief Young has received for not being Luka Doncic, he’s had a damn fine rookie season. His assists numbers for a player his age are off the charts, and his efficiency as a scorer has been excellent aside from a miserable month of November.
With that said, there’s room for improvement. Young needs to become a better defender and decision-maker. Even if nobody should expect him to be an elite defensive player, it is a must if he wants to be regarded as one of the games best point guards. As far as his decision-making, there isn’t a pass Young can’t make – and sometimes for a young player – that can be both a blessing and a curse. Young often makes errant decisions and forces a pass where it doesn’t belong. If he is able to cut down on his turnovers, he has the potential to put up Nash-like numbers as a passer.
Season averages: 9.4 points, 42.4 FG%, 39.3 3-PT FG%, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 turnovers
The Hawks have had luck with the #19 overall pick in the last two drafts. Two years ago they selected John Collins – who has already blossomed into an All-Star caliber player. And this year, they took Kevin Huerter who is oozing with potential.
The 6’7″ shooting guard is a sniper from deep, can play two ways and is continuously active without the ball in his hands – a must in today’s NBA. But there are still several areas for adjustments to take his game to the next level.
Most importantly, he needs to find a counter to his jump shot. Catch-and-shoot players are all over the NBA, but Huerter has the ability to pump fake, put the ball on the floor and finish around the rim. He’s just not aggressive enough at this point, which brings us to our second area for improvement. Huerter needs to shoot the ball. For a starter – on a team lacking talent – there is no reason he should not be taking at least ten shots per game and five three-pointers. And lastly, he has to work on getting stronger in the offseason. There aren’t many 6’7″ players, weighing under 200 pounds, period.
Season averages: 5.9 points, 39.3 FG%, 34.5 3-PT FG%, 4.0 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks
When Spellman was drafted, he looked to fit that Draymond Green role in Atlanta. An undersized big in terms of height but can make up for it with his sheer size and strength. Where he excels much further than Green ever has is with his three-point shooting. Already a 34.5% shooter from deep, that would be the second-best shooting mark of Green’s seven-year career.
Although, Spellman has not showcased the playmaking ability or defensive prowess that Green is known for. He may never be able to pass like Green, but he should become a much better defender as his career progresses. A significant issue for him early on has been his weight. Even though he’s listed at 245 pounds, the 6’9″ forward spent a stint in the G-League early on in the year because he was way overweight. Spellman said he got up to up to 290 pounds. When he returned to the Hawks, he was just over 270 pounds. That’s an improvement but only the beginning. The Hawks hope he can slim down to that 245-pound mark that he is listed at.