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High hopes, expectations and the playoff potential of the Atlanta Hawks

Expectations are high for the Hawks heading into the season, should those expectations be curbed or charged?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks-Media Day Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It is truly an exciting time of the year.

After months and months of near silence, it was just about time for Atlanta Hawks basketball once again as everyone gathered for media day on Monday, Sept. 30 ahead of training camp and the impending preseason.

Media day is a great time to gather the various thoughts from players and coaches alike (although Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce confined most of his thoughts to a media availability session on the Friday, along with Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk) of their summers, what players worked on and so much more — sometimes not even extending to basketball (John Collins’ haircut, for example, was a topic of conversation).

‘Excitement’ was a word used often on Media Day as everyone is raring to kickstart a new season, a season where there is infinitely more expectation placed upon the team this time around — a stark contrast to last season.

Last year, it wasn’t really a secret that the Hawks were going to struggle. Pierce and Schlenk didn’t really go to many lengths to hide that during their 2018-19 preseason media availability. Obviously the duo didn’t outright say that the team would struggle but when you preface your season with “...growth and development is going to be at the forefront of everything we do...” (that line coming from Piece) you’re not exactly building up to playoff expectations.

But fast forward a year later and the expectations are very much there, a testament to the growth and development what has taken place within the team in the space of 365 days.

The fan base is excited, as they should be. There’s a great buzz around the franchise and things definitely seem to be progressing in the right way, especially after last season given the development of Collins in his second season and the addition of star point guard Trae Young and sharpshooter Kevin Huerter who both exceeded expectations in their rookie seasons.

Heading into a new season, a large section of the fan base is very much expecting a playoff berth for the young Hawks. So, externally there’s a lot of excitement ahead of the season and it’s the same internally too and that excitement goes beyond the court too.

Chemistry was a talking point heading into last season but this year’s iteration of the Hawks seem to be an ever tighter-knit group compared to last year.

“You’re going to see that chemistry,” said Collins when asked about what will be different this year compared to years past. “I feel like this year, we truly have a group of guys that want to be in the locker room with each other, that want to play with each other, want to spend time with each other and I feel like y’all going to see that pour onto the court because if guys really like each other and truly want to play for each other, they have each other’s back. It makes playing out here so much easier. I feel like you’re going to see a more camaraderie group, a more together group this year.”

With such a young group (with nine rookies heading into training camp, as Lloyd Pierce alluded to on multiple occasions), it’s natural that many of them have similar interests and they’ve been able to bond over those interests.

“It’s fun, and one of the biggest things I’ve really noticed early on was how good we get along with each other and I think part of it is because everybody is young,” said Hawks rookie Bruno Fernando when asked about being on a young team with similar interests.

“We’re all kind of around the same age, 20’s, early 20’s, some people late 20’s,” Fernando continued. “Everybody gets along and everybody is really trying to help each other. Everybody has got the same amount of energy to put in work and just being around here, being around the guys, being in the gym and being around the people here.”

For the first time in a number of years, there is some (and I use that word somewhat loosely) sort of continuity as the Hawks return this season.

While longer-term mainstays such as Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince were traded this summer, there are still returning members and core members too: Collins, Young, Huerter, and DeAndre’ Bembry, as well as Alex Len and Vince Carter.

Carter and Len may not be long-term fixtures (and perhaps even Bembry) but the general core of the team itself — Young, Collins and Huerter — has enjoyed some sort of continuity from last year to this year, even if it just each other.

“That’s really big-time for me,” said Collins on the continuity. “If you watch my career these past couple of years, I’ve pretty much had two total roster changes, back to back. So, after my rookie year and coming into my sophomore year. It’s been really tough for me to get used to that in such a league. So for me coming into my third year and having a more solidified group of guys that I gel with, that the chemistry is there with, it’s comforting. I’m hoping we can stay together for a longer period of time. I want to grow with these guys.”

Another thing that has helped grown the close chemistry with this year’s roster has been the fact that the majority of the team has been back in Atlanta working out since early/mid August, and this has meant a lot to some of the newer faces on the team.

“...Just us getting here early, getting to learn other player’s games, personalities and stuff like that,” said Allen Crabbe on building chemistry after a summer of considerable roster turnover. “It’s been fun. I think we have a great group of guys who are looking forward to this season, I think we have a very young talented team...”

“...We’ve found a really good chemistry so far,” added Jabari Parker.

It’s also helped some of the newer get acclimated to matters on the court, as well as outside of it.

“You want your team to be close, your want your team to get used to playing with each other,” said Huerter. “With a young team and a new system, a lot of new guys, you’ve simply guys learning plays ... if we’ve been here for the last month, to an extent, our new guys know what we’re going to do, how our offense is going to run and how we want to play.”

Over the years, most people have seen at least one instance of what happens when a team doesn’t enjoy playing with each other or don’t enjoy each other’s company and how that sometimes translates onto the court.

If the Hawks fail this season, it won’t be because of a lack of chemistry — it’s a tightly-knit group.

When it comes to the playoffs, there are some split thoughts — some are absolutely adamant that the Hawks will be there while others are tempering expectations somewhat right now.

“Every year, every team wants to make the playoffs — that’s the goal for every team,” said Huerter. “For us to say it’s not our goal would be being naive to say and just untrue. But we’re not going to put a label on this season. Every year is about growth. We obviously want to win more than 29 games from last year. From winning 29 games and being as close as we still were to that 8 spot, we just hope this year is a progression and we win more games and then whatever happens towards the end of the year happens.”

“I don’t want to talk too much about the expectations,” said Allen Crabbe while Jabari Parker added “Only time will tell...”

Then again, perhaps some other answers given shouldn’t have been that surprising.

“I mean, you think I’m going to say no?” Young smiled. “Of course I feel we can make the playoffs and I’ll try to do whatever I can to get us there.”

Collins added a bit of flesh to his more definitive answer, saying that any missing veteran leadership/experience can be found within their roster before going on to the Hawks have all of the talent they need to make the playoffs.

“I feel like we are a playoff team, like I said it’s a matter of putting it all together, with any team, but I feel like we definitely have enough talent,” said Collins. “The coaching is there, obviously the youth and experience isn’t but I feel like we can make up for that with guys like Vince (Carter), guys like Evan Turner, guys like Allen Crabbe who can pick up the slack that we don’t have in experience but have talent wise.”

“It’s not like we’re one of the teams that lacks talent. We have the talent. It’s just about the years and the experience and putting that all together which takes time but I feel like we’re at a great point right now where we need to be now going forward.”

So, mixed messages, to a degree coming, from the Hawks. No one from within is saying they can’t make the playoffs but you can see that some are a bit more absolute in their answers while others a little more reserved at this early stage.

If the Hawks were in the Western Conference, this probably wouldn’t be a point of pointed conversation arising at media day — given the amount of depth and experience in the West — but because they are in the Eastern Conference, the door is always open for that one (sometimes two) teams in the East to slide in to the 8-seed.

Looking at the standings from last season, the only team that didn’t make the playoffs last year in the East that you’d say should this year would be the Miami Heat with the addition of Jimmy Butler. The 7th and 8th seeds from last season in the form of the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, it’s hard to firmly place them in the playoffs the same you could probably do so for the Heat with a star like Jimmy Butler.

In theory, there is a spot or two up for grabs.

I’m going to talk about the Hawks’ playoff chances today, for better or for worse, because I think the topic is an interesting one regardless how you feel about it.

Put together, if you will, the best case scenario for the Hawks.

We talked about it here at Peachtree Hoops whether or not Young and/or Collins would make the All-Star team. It was a question that was asked because the possibility is definitely there for either to achieve. Some believed that at least one of the pair could make it and others believed that while the statistical numbers might be there, the Hawks’ record might make it tough (the Hawks face a tough beginning to the season) for one/both of them to get the nod.

But it’s certainly not unrealistic to think that Collins will average north of 20-10 and Young in the 19/20-9 area. Best case scenario for those two would be if the pair of them are averaging 20-10, or 23-8/9 for Young.

In his pre-training camp press conference, Lloyd Pierce said he would be happy if Young and Collins simply averaged the numbers they did last season but more efficiently.

“I’d like to see him (Collins) do 19 and 9 again,” said Pierce. “I think that would be a big testament to his work ethic and approach to his game. I think sometimes we get confused and thinking every year everybody is going to improve. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit of your game for our team to improve. His growth will be consistency — do the same thing, do it more efficiently.

“Same thing with Trae. We’d love to see Trae average eight assists and possibly more. We’d love to see him average 18 points, let’s just do it more consistently. Whether it’s moving that 33% three-point field goal percentage up to 39. He doesn’t need to take a ton, he just needs to make them at a consistent rate...”

All of that is logical and if Young were to average similar to what he was doing at the end of the last season but shooting in the high 30’s from three, I think that would be a success, but the likelihood is that he and Collins are taking the next step forward. Behind All-Star caliber production from the Hawks’ best two players, that’s a good start toward a possible playoff berth.

Trae Young certainly believes he can break into the elite and become and All-Star this season but understands that the team success is key to that happening.

“I believe I have a chance to be an All-Star this year,” said Young speaking with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “I think if we win as many games as I feel like we can and at least be in playoff contention, I think I have a good chance. The more we win, the better my odds are of getting into the All-Star Game and that’s my main focus: winning. I know my numbers will be there. I’m not worried about my numbers. I feel like the way we play, the fast pace we play, my numbers will be there. For me, it’s all about winning. If we’re winning, I have a really good chance of being in that All-Star game.”

Huerter stepping up and shooting 40 percent (or more) from three while averaging 12-15 points per game would be the next best case scenario for the Hawks in addition to All-Star calibre seasons from Young and Collins.

The second-year wing has talked about wanting to strengthen his body and that seems like a goal he has achieved over the summer, coming into camp 12 pounds heavier while working on his ability to finish inside, which is the next evolution, the next step in raising his game.

“Hopefully being able to play a little bit more through contact, getting into the paint, finishing through contact, being able to bump, have guys bump off of me and not me always bumping off of them,” said Huerter on what those 12 pounds would translate to on the court.

In addition to that, Huerter has worked on his “...consistency in finishing, percentage-wise finishing better, mindset-wise of going and drawing contact, not shying away from contact, finishing through contact and being strong enough to do that,” before adding that “a lot of that for me is mindset and staying aggressive.”

Len coming in and basically filling the offensive hole left by Dewayne Dedmon would be enough at the center spot. We’ll talk later about the other holes left by Dedmon but, for the most part, Len can do what Dedmon did offensively last season.

Next are the rookies.

Cam Reddish is likely to have a slower start to the year after being limited in his activity throughout the summer due to injury (as Pierce eluded to in his press conference).

“...Each individual is on their own path,” said Pierce. “Cam will just start playing 5-on-5 basketball. So he’s a little bit behind, just for any basketball player, if you haven’t played for 6 or 7 months it just takes a while to get caught up with the speed and the conditioning ... there’s no rush for anyone, we’re not going to skip steps and try advance someone before they’re ready. We have a lot of bodies, we have a lot of competition and we have a lot of versatility and we’ll use who’s available while we’re slowly bringing everyone else along.”

If Reddish gets to a place in his rookie season where he can contribute in a meaningful and positive way (which, it should be stated, isn’t always easy for rookies), that’s the best scenario for the Hawks when it comes to Reddish.

Fernando will obviously feature in the rotation at some point and he’s been working on all aspects of his game but especially his jump-shot this summer, often told by the coaching staff to be ready to shoot.

“I feel like I’ve been working on every aspect of my game, especially with the coaching staff here really helping me just kind of emphasizing on working on every aspect of my game, especially my jump-shot,” said Fernando. “I feel like with our offense here and the way we play our style of play, it’s really going to allow me to have a lot of open shots and open threes and stuff like that and just learn the spacing of the game.

“‘You’re going to get a lot of open shots in our offense so you’ve got to make sure you work on those,’” Fernando went on to say of what the coaching staff told him.

Fernando being able to contribute on either end as a rookie big would be a nice bonus but his success this year wouldn’t be the difference between the Hawks being a playoff team and a lottery team.

It’s De’Andre Hunter where things become perhaps the most interesting, and he has already made strong impressions to his teammates so far.

“...De’Andre Hunter I think has opened a lot of eyes so far this year,” said Huerter. “We didn’t know he was so good with the ball. We kinda knew coming into college that he was going to have an NBA-ready body, that he could shoot a little bit, he could do a bit of everything, was a great defender but he was coming in here shaking people and showing he can put it on the deck and go and finish at the rim. I think he’s exceeded a lot of expectations so far this year.”

In two games so far in the pre-season, Hunter has shown that he can indeed put on the floor and score effectively, and has really impressed in the opening two games of the Hawks’ preseason so far.

Hunter has also made a strong impression on his head coach.

I think most expect Hunter to immediately slide into the starting small forward spot. If he can be a plus defender immediately while being able to add somewhat on offense (anything from behind the arc would really help), things become really interesting in addition to everything else. You could argue that the production of Hunter as a rookie might be one of the factors between the Hawks being a playoff team or not but the defensive aspect is a lot more important than offense in that regard.

It’s a challenge Hunter wants to take on.

“...I’m sure I’ll have some nights where things happen but just taking it as a challenge as a rookie just being able to guard the best player on the opposing team,” said Hunter. “Just want to take that challenge every night.”

We’ll talk about defense as a whole later, but that covers the core members and rookies, now the rest...

Players like Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Chandler Parsons and Jabari Parker may not be long-term fixtures but they’re all out of contract at the end of the season (Parker does technically have a player option but, realistically, if he plays well in any way he’s opting out of that) — which means they’re auditioning this year for new contracts, whether that’s in Atlanta or elsewhere.

But for now, they’re in Atlanta and will all have roles to play.

Evan Turner is going to be thrust into the backup point guard role, so the opportunity to thrive will be there (Pierce also eluded to possibly deploying Turner as a four in addition to the point guard, which was interesting).

Allen Crabbe is coming off of an injury-hit season in Brooklyn but when he’s fit, he’s usually firing — a career 39% three-point shooter. If he’s healthy, he’s a plus for the Hawks’ bench immediately.

Jabari Parker is looking for some NBA stability at this stage of his career, describing Atlanta as a “fresh start” for his career. I think Parker has every chance to succeed but he is also playing for a contract so I’m sure that extra motivation is there, though Parker insists he’s not playing for the money.

“Just playing the game, just getting out there and having a good time is my priority,” said Parker. “Money isn’t my main objective I just want to be able to sleep at night and be able to have fun in the game I love playing.”

Chandler Parsons I think is a fascinating player and addition, even if it was a means to get off of two bad contracts (in Miles Plumlee and Solomon Hill) in exchange for one bad contract in the form of Parsons’ expiring deal.

Obviously, and Parsons was the first to admit at media day, he has his injury history (playing just 95 games in three seasons in Memphis) but insists he’s feeling good and enjoyed a productive summer.

“I feel good,” said Parsons. “I had a really good summer, I made some strides...”

Parsons would go on to say he would take things slow in pre-season but, if he is healthy, he becomes a great option for the Hawks off of the bench. When he is healthy, he’s a 6-10 forward who can shoot threes at a great clip for his size — shooting 37% from three from his career (despite shooting 31% last season).

He is, in many ways, the elite shooting small-ball forward/center that the league missed out on due to his injuries. In his ninth season now, Parsons sees Atlanta as a great fit for his game but concedes that he needs to be out on the court to obviously benefit from that.

“I fit great, just the style of play that they play,” said Parsons. “A lot of threes, a lot of transition, a lot of pick-and-rolls. It’s definitely an offense that favors how I play. The biggest thing for me is to be able to play, to stay on the floor, to stay healthy because I know when I’m on the floor and feeling like myself I’m one of the better players in the league. I just got to continue to keep maintenance of my body, keep managing my knees and find the way to be out there the most.”

As a best case scenario, a healthy Parsons would be a great boost to the Hawks’ playoff hopes — the league has forgotten Parsons in some ways due to his situation. I’ve no idea what to expect — it could go 100 different ways — but there’s no denying that when he’s healthy and, as Parsons says ‘is himself’ then he’s a positive for any team given his size and skill-set.

Another man in a contract year is Bembry. You could argue he should’ve been mentioned as part of the Hawks’ core but the reality is his future is uncertain. In theory, Taurean Prince’s Atlanta future should’ve been a lot more certain than Bembry’s, and Prince is now in Brooklyn — nothing is certain.

This is a big season for Bembry and his Hawks future may depend on him figuring out how to shoot in this league. At some point, you would imagine that Reddish will be able to do almost everything Bembry can do — and if Reddish can shoot on top of that, that could be it for Bembry. Whether that comes in Reddish’s rookie season remains to be seen but this is a big year for Bembry. His role is a little murky right now and he is another player — in addition to those mentioned above — playing for a future. Again, whether it’s with the Hawks or elsewhere as he prepares (right now, pending any extension that may come his way, which seems unlikely) for restricted free agency.

So, put all of these best case scenarios together...

Young and Collins playing at All-Star caliber levels, Huerter elevating his game and becoming a premiere shooter, the rookies making a plus impact (but Hunter more than anyone else), Allen Crabbe and Chandler Parsons staying healthy (something that is looking very likely at this present moment) and shooting at a high-level off of the bench, Evan Turner excelling as backup point guard, Bembry excelling and learning to shoot and Jabari Parker turning it around in Atlanta.

As a team, if the Hawks can be even average on defense and they cut down on their turnovers (more on that later), things are looking up.

Put all of those aspects together — as best case scenarios — and the Hawks can absolutely make the playoffs. There’ll just be too much firepower to deal with and that should be enough to sneak, at least, to the 8-seed — again, if the best case scenarios come together.

Their ceiling absolutely allows them to make the playoffs.

However, you have to assess how realistic all of those best case scenarios aligning together are, and most of them aligning the same time (which is obviously key). Some — like Young and Collins — are absolutely in play. Others are a little more unrealistic to expect...

Added to some of those stars that are unlikely to align, there are issues that you have to talk about.

Playing time is going to an issue for a start. The Hawks are fairly deep this season — as they juggle between youth and experience — and not everyone is going to play.

If you look at the projected roster right now (not including the two-way players)...

Point guards: Trae Young, Evan Turner

Wings: Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, DeAndre’ Bembry, Allen Crabbe

Forwards: John Collins Jabari Parker, Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter

Centers: Alex Len, Damian Jones, Bruno Fernando

Obviously bear in mind that players like Collins, Carter (when he plays) can obviously be deployed at center, as well as Bembry, Hunter and Crabbe deployed as forwards (and Evan Turner as a power forward as Pierce has eluded to) but it’s just to lay out the roster on paper— the point is that there’s a lot bodies and not a lot of minutes. Someone is going to miss out on minutes.

The elephant in the room when talking about a possible playoff berth is obviously the defense — let’s talk about it, because no one else seems to want to.

The Hawks are going to have to hang their hat on offense and hope their potentially explosive offense can just outscore teams and win games that way because they simply lack the personnel to be a defensive squad. They have some plus defenders like Bembry but defenders really are few and far between on this roster.

Hunter can help defensively (he’ll already be a improvement over some already within the team) but will he be a plus defender from Day One? If he can, great, but history isn’t kind to rookies defensively — they generally struggle out of the gate (though, Hunter has shown positive flashes so far in the preseason). Reddish also has defensive potential but, as Pierce has eluded, he’s going to be brought along slowly. It takes time.

“In regards to defense, we understand — with any young team — the biggest and greatest challenge is how you compete on a consistent basis and that usually points to your defense,” said Pierce. “For us, we were at our best in the second half of the season. There was less thinking and a lot more reactions and playing, both offensively and defensively.”

“It takes a while with a young team,” Pierce continued. “It takes a while with a young player for them to learn everything during training camp, play a game six days later and not think. ‘Am I pushing on the right, am I pushing on the left, do I run right, do I run left?’ All of those are going through their mind six days later from the start of training camp, it kind of feeds into the season...”

Dewayne Dedmon’s departure at center leaves a bigger hole defensively than it does offensively.

Len will be able to do the things Dedmon did offensively (maybe not as well but he can do similar stuff in theory) but defensively is where Dedmon will be missed a lot more — Len just isn’t as mobile and isn’t the shot-blocker that Dedmon is.

And look, the difference between the two’s shot blocking last season was 0.9 for Len and 1.1 for Dedmon but Dedmon was definitely the better rim protector — 0.2 in the difference of averages doesn’t really do Dedmon justice in that sense (the defensive field goal percentages does a little more justice, though, Len’s block percentage was slightly higher than Dedmon’s, so read into that what you will...).

In any case, there’ll be more pressure on Collins to block some more shots this season — either as a help defender or one-on-one — and he did, to his credit, show signs of this as the end of last season approached (blocking 1.2 shots per game after the All-Star break).

But he’ll have to block more than 0.6 shots per game on the season.

Young and Huerter adding some muscle will help in some regards (Huerter has defensive potential) but more muscle won’t be enough to hide Young defensively. He has his limitations and people accept that — he’ll just have to make up for it on offense and, as a whole, just make sure he’s adding more points to the team than conceding as a whole.

“...Because of his size, it’s always going to be there on the defensive end but as long as you’re competing that’s all we’re looking for out of him,” said Travis Schlenk at the pre-training camp availability.

Defensively, there’s a lot to be worried about and it might end up being the single reason why the Hawks may not make the playoffs, if it’s near the bottom of the league.

Pierce mentioned that there were a few different things the Hawks would try and do defensively but, for the most part, the head coach cited ‘competitiveness’ and ‘effort’ when it came to defense, as well as education.

“Our emphasis this year is to try to educate,” said Pierce. “We’re not doing double days in training camp so we’re going to spend a lot of time in the film room after practice and we want to try and mentally educate our guys as well as physically educate them and hopefully just keep their bodies fresh.”

“We want to play to our youth and our advantage and our energy and our pace but we also have to take that learning curve and, kind of, accelerate it but not give them too much. So, hopefully there’s a couple of different strategies and approaches that we have on the defensive even, the bottom line is they have to compete and they have to learn what that competitive side looks like.”

Pierce talked about consistency when it came to the progression of Young and Collins and talked about it again when it came to defense.

“The NBA is about consistency,” said Pierce. “In order for us to grow in order for us to expand you have to do that. That’s the norm. It’s not, ‘we had a great game against whomever on Wednesday night’ you’ve got to do it on Friday night. There’s a lot of room for us to grow offensively, there’s a lot of integration we have to deal with new players.”

“We’ve got to start the same way offensively as we’re approaching it defensively. Consistency is a keyword and we’ll use that, and the approach to that is very important for all of our guys. I don’t want any of our guys thinking that we’ve accomplished anything just yet.”

“Yes, defense is at the forefront of this training camp but we have to maintain the same mentality we went into last year with,” Pierce said. “It’s easy for any young player, offensively, to buy in and to play at the effort they want. We have a lot of versatile and skilled offensive players but for us to make any steps it’s going to be on the defensive end and it’s definitely going to be with our effort on both sides of the basketball.”

Based on those quotes, how much is actually going to change defensively? I have no idea, it’s anyones guess. That wouldn’t inspire a ton of confidence for me — you’d just hope with another year of experience and wisdom that maybe something would be different but, again, the Hawks’ defensive ceiling is limited due to their personnel.

On the other hand, you could make the argument that defense isn’t as important as you think in deciding wins and losses. And I’m personally a big fan of defense — I think it’s one of the differences between good and great in this league — and defensive players, so why would I say that it’s not as important as you might think?

Turnovers were obviously a big problem last season — the Hawks ranked dead last in that regard and last in opponent points off of turnovers per game. Granted, this did improve somewhat after the All-Star Break (20th in turnovers per game and 25th in opponent points off of turnovers) but it’s still a wound that needs more dressing up.

The Hawks have been working on reducing their turnovers so far in training camp scrimmages, and if they can limit turnovers and points off of turnovers, it should prove dividend in the win/loss column — the Hawks were involved in 19 losses decided by eight points or less — and with the Hawks committing 17 turnovers a game leading to 21.1 turnover points for the opposition on the season you could argue that the true decider for the Hawks being a playoff team might lie right here.

However, in the preseason this has not gone to plan: 29 and 27 turnovers respectively in their opening two games — it has not been pretty.

The Hawks will have to take better care of the ball this season — there’s no way around it — and that obviously starts with Young, who committed 3.8 turnovers per game. Heading into year two, you would imagine that Young will make improvements in this regard.

In the preseason so far, this has not been the case as Young has averaged eight turnovers in his opening two games.

“As far as turnovers, I’ve been playing like shit,” said Young after the Hawks’ loss to the Magic. “It’s embarrassing. I’ve been playing bad as far as taking care of the ball. It’s something I need to get better at and it’s something I will be better at. It’s preseason, but I don’t use it as a tool. It’s no excuse for me just turning the ball over. It’s crowded plays. It’s me jumping in the air, passing, looking for cutters. It’s stuff I know. I know I can fix it. Focusing and locking in on doing it.”

The (often erratic) 1.8 turnovers per game apiece from Prince and Kent Bazemore last season are gone and you would imagine that Bembry would perhaps take a step back in ball-handling responsibilities (with Evan Turner coming onboard and Huerter perhaps taking a step-up in playmaking), meaning Bembry’s 1.7 turns per game may be reduced — they’ll need to be reduced. For now, Bembry has been active on the ball during the preseason though that has come in the absence of Kevin Huerter and Evan Turner.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think how bad the Hawks potentially could be as a defensive squad matters a lot, but they don’t have to be good, they don’t even need to be average to make the playoffs (though, it would certainly help) if their offense is above average. They just can’t be near the bottom defensively...

But one thing is for absolutely sure: they can’t lead the league in turnovers and opposing turnover points again this season and expect to make the playoffs. With how bad their defense could be, they can’t afford to have both of those factors working against them.

The schedule to begin the season is not favorable and something else that has be taken into account are the moves Travis Schlenk may make during the season. Trades for any of the Hawks’ impending free agents may arise — in part due to the Hawks’ cap situation — and any potential deals may take away from what the Hawks do on the floor (it could go the other way of course).

As Jabari Parker said, only time will tell on the Hawks’ playoff chances...

There’s a lot that can go right for their season and hitting their ceiling can definitely take them the playoffs, but there are more than enough factors to prevent that from happening that would prevent them from making the playoffs.

If the Hawks do fall short in their playoff quest, how does the fanbase react? With disappointment, or understanding of the situation at hand given the Hawks’ youth, lack of experience and lack of defense?

Patience has been something preached often by the Hawks during this process. Now that things look up and winning basketball surely not far away, will those outside the franchise hold true to that?

Things look sunny in Atlanta and regardless of what happens/doesn’t happen this season, there’s still plenty of reason for excitement in the long-term.