The playoffs separate the boys from the men. Some will rise to the occasion, and others will shrink. From the Hawks’ perspective, I’m fairly confident Trae Young will get his numbers. Although, how efficiently he gets there will determine if his first taste of the NBA postseason is a successful one. After Young, however, Atlanta has several guys who could potentially be the second option offensively, and it will likely take multiple of them to step up if they want to advance past the Knicks.
Words can’t describe just how impressed I’ve been with John Collins this season. His numbers on the stat sheet have taken a step back, but he’s improved in all of the little areas, and his team-first attitude is one that every player should strive to emulate. It’s no secret that Collins was disappointed with the contract the Hawks offered him this offseason, leading to him being a restricted free agent this offseason. I would say over half of the league in his situation would have made the season about himself, especially with the way things began for the Hawks. He didn’t, though, and because of that, the team has reached its full potential.
But don’t let Collins offensive numbers this season fool you; he remains one of the most efficient big men in the NBA. The fourth-year power forward once again shot over 55% from the field and 40% from three. He can stroke it from anywhere on the court, and I’ve been extremely impressed with the strides he’s made in his one-on-one game in the post. Collins is a threat for 25+ points every night, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he took over next to Trae Young as the Hawks’ second option offensively.
It’s fair to say the emergence of a healthy Bogdanovic is what made everything click for the Hawks. He averaged career highs in scoring, FG%, 3PT FG%, and provided terrific playmaking when Trae Young needed a breather. In the 35 games he played since returning from injury, he averaged 18.0 points on 48.7% from the field and 45.5% from behind the arc. He’s a lock for nearly 20 a night, but those points will be much harder to come by in the playoffs, especially against a stifling Knicks defense. Can the veteran perform in his first opportunity under the bright lights of the postseason?
De’Andre Hunter played 24 minutes in the Hawks season finale and did not suffer any setbacks. I assume he will still have a slight minutes restriction early in this season, but he could be all systems go by the end of it. Before Hunter was injured, he was arguably the Hawks player. He can score at all three levels and do so efficiently. It would be quite a story if Hunter shook off the rust and was one of the Hawks’ primary scoring options in the playoffs, but that’s how high the organization thinks of him. Most believe he will be an All-Star in the future, and he showed up consistently in big moments for Virginia in college on their way to a National Championship.
Gallinari is what I call a professional bucket-getter. It never looks pretty, but his shot is impossible to block, and the ball always seems to go in. Gallo will be coming off the bench, but expect him to be on the floor for at least 25 minutes a night, and we’ve seen him finish games on several occasions. When this guy gets hot, he’s impossible to stop, and he’s the type of player that can sizzle for ten-game stretches. If that happens in this series, the Knicks are in a world of trouble.
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