With (very) little else to discuss, plenty of attention is paid to how NBA experts rank the league’s 30 teams in the middle of the off-season. Sure, there are stray moves here and there (hello, Vince Carter) but, for the most part, team rosters are virtually set and that allows die-hards to look ahead and prognosticate about the future.
To that end, legendary NBA figure David Aldridge, now employed by The Athletic, put forth an annual staple this week, ranking the entire league through an interesting lens. Here is the criteria for the list:
The conceit is simple: rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons, looking at everything, from how they drafted to what trades they made, to significant free-agent signings and to whether they participated in free agency much at all. I looked at coaching changes, new GMs, new buildings that could generate significantly more revenue going forward, or practice facilities that are now online. I then decided which ones I liked the most.
Aldridge later clarifies that this is not a power ranking of how teams are projected to finish, but rather an evaluation of the off-season and the off-season alone. With that out of the way, he slots the Atlanta Hawks at No. 15 overall.
The piece explicitly praises Chelsea Lane, Atlanta’s executive director of athletic performance and sports medicine, saying that “her reputation as a clinician that saw the big picture when it came to players’ health and confidence will continue paying dividends in Atlanta with a young Hawks team.” From there, he notes the following about the moves executed by general manager Travis Schlenk.
Schlenk continues to play the long game, rinsing and filling his roster again to get younger and still more diverse to surround Trae Young and John Collins. This year’s haul included Hunter, who I think has major two-way potential for stardom, and Reddish, who has as much talent as anyone in this year’s draft, but whose motor came into question at the wrong time. He’ll have ample chance to bloom amongst the budding flowers in the ATL. Fernando had several first-round grades before the draft and cost next to nothing to get; Turner will replace Bazemore in the rotation and the Hawks got yet another future first, this one from Brooklyn, to add to their still-ample pile of assets. Kenny Atkinson may be long gone to the Nets, but the Hawks have Brooklyn’s team-building DNA all over them.
Aldridge’s evaluation (and placement) is generally in line with the consensus of what the Hawks did over the summer. Everyone agrees that Atlanta’s future is brighter now than it was 12 months ago, with the progression of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins combining with the addition of De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando.
There is disagreement on the process, headlined by the trade package used to grab De’Andre Hunter and some confusion around the league about the Bazemore-Turner swap. One of those moves is a lot more important than the other but, in short, many view the off-season as neutral from a “grade” perspective, even while acknowledging excitement for the future with a talented, intriguing young core.
The full list is worth a read (subscription required), if only because Aldridge has been doing this round-up for a while and has a good feel of the league. For the Hawks, though, it is generally more of the same and a reminder that training camp can’t arrive soon enough.