The madness of the 2019 NBA offseason has quieted and, for the most part, it appears as if rosters are nearing completion around the league. While it is certainly possible that a high-profile trade happens in August (remember Kyrie Irving?), national outlets have begun taking stock of the full landscape and that means the presence of power rankings and win-loss projections.
For the Atlanta Hawks, we’ve already seen some consensus forming, with a 32.5-win over/under win total projection from the handicapping world that would place Lloyd Pierce’s team in a tie for No. 23 in the league’s pecking order. However, more entities have weighed and it’s time to catch up on what they are saying about the Hawks.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
If you missed it earlier this week, we evaluated FiveThirtyEight’s individual projections for Atlanta’s roster but, on the heels of that, the statistical outlet released team-based estimates. They weren’t exactly kind to the Hawks, pegging Atlanta for just 28 wins. It is worth noting that FiveThirtyEight had the entire Western Conference projected for at least 33 wins, and that pushed the Hawks down a few rungs.
With the most pessimistic evaluation out of the way, things get rosier and that begins here. The Athletic’s power rankings are behind a paywall (and they are written by a personal friend of mine in Zach Harper, for full disclosure) but they include some positive sentiments for Atlanta.
Travis Schlenk has had another good offseason for creating long-term viability and flexibility with shaping this roster. The Hawks had a phenomenal draft night. Moving up to acquire De’Andre Hunter out of Virginia with the fourth pick adds so much to their future defense. I’m high on Cam Reddish and think the value of grabbing him at 10 is a nice addition too. Then the Hawks went out and brought in some big expiring deals for veterans they can possibly move this season. Chandler Parsons ($25.1M), Evan Turner ($18.6M), and Allen Crabbe ($18.5M) can all be monster deals to acquire this season in order to get your cap situation in the right direction. You’ll just need to give up some assets to the Hawks in order to do so.
Or the Hawks just let their deals expire and go into the next summer with a ton of cap space. No major additions outside of that, except for Jabari Parker on a two-year deal and the acquisition of Damian Jones for Omari Spellman. The Hawks still have that young core to build around, and Trae Young will lead the charge with John Collins and Kevin Huerter. I think Lloyd Pierce’s team is still probably a year away from consistently being able to win, but they can be extremely dangerous this coming season; 22nd might be too low for them, but it just felt hard to give the benefit of the doubt to such a young rotation.
It feels like a lot of people want to place the Hawks higher on the food chain, but they’re holding out for proof.
Kurt Helin of NBC Sports puts Atlanta at No. 23 with the following blurb:
Atlanta is building a nice young team around Trae Young and John Collins, and we’ll see what De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish can add to that (the Hawks need a player on the wing and hope one of those two becomes that guy). I expect to see improvement, and for the Hawks to remain entertaining, but they may be a year or two and a player or two away from being the kind of threat they hope to become in the East.
Reid Forgrave follows that up by inserting the Hawks in the same No. 23 perch.
Three or four years from now, the Hawks could be at the very top of this list. Not yet, though. They’re just too young. But Travis Schlenk has done a remarkable job at surrounding Trae Young with players who fit his unique skill set. John Collins could be an All-Star in the making. Kevin Huerter is a stone-cold gunner. And Schlenk drafted two long and athletic wings in De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish who could wreak havoc as two-way forces. It’s going to be a joy to watch this team grow together.
Finally, good friend of the program Kevin Arnovitz says there is “a lot of shine to the Hawks’ rebuilding project” while placing the team at No. 22 overall.
There’s a lot of shine to the Hawks’ rebuilding project, and even whispers that the upstart Hawks could sniff the postseason next spring in a conference where 80% of success is just showing up. Joining the existing young core led by Trae Young and John Collins will be a pair of rookie forwards drafted in the top 10, a couple of functional veterans on the perimeter and a reclamation project in Jabari Parker. The biggest challenge ahead for Atlanta will be crafting a defense that can compete with the grownups if and when those games in March and April carry playoff implications.
A lot can still change for a team that has two open roster spots (and a vacant Two-Way contract) but, provided the Hawks stay relatively quiet in the next two months, it feels safe to say that most projections will have Atlanta outside of the playoff picture.
Can the Hawks jump into the mix with internal growth from Trae Young, John Collins and/or Kevin Huerter? Absolutely. Would they benefit from a bounce-back effort from Jabari Parker? Certainly. Could they have a better defense with players like Evan Turner and the rookie pairing of De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish available? Yep.
In the meantime, the consensus seems to be that virtually everyone is intrigued by Atlanta’s talent and offensive upside, while worrying a bit about youth and defensive aptitude in a present-day sense.