In the doldrums of summer, the Peachtree Hoops staff came together for a 10-part roundtable series, answering a series of prompts with an eye toward the upcoming season for the Atlanta Hawks.
The 10th and final installment opens the door for full-season projections.
Jeff Siegel: Playing in the worst division in basketball will certainly help, but this team still isn’t in the running for a playoff berth, at least not this year. The elephant in the room for Atlanta is, as it is for most teams, injuries — if either Young or Collins goes down, they’re immediately one of the worst teams in the league during that stretch. They won 29 games last season with Collins missing at the beginning of the year but arguably had a better top-to-bottom roster in 2018-19 than they will in 2019-20 — they’re relying heavily on the internal improvement of Young, Collins, and Huerter in order to make a push into the mid-30s in wins. I’ll go with 31 wins for the Hawks in 2019-20, pricing in the possibility of injury, a potential sophomore “slump” for Young, and the fact that the roster depth is worse than it was a year ago against the improvements for the team’s young guys. Then again, if Young stays at the heights he hit late last year and Collins makes another leap as a playmaker and defender, they could easily knock on the door of the playoffs at 37-40 wins.
Graham Chapple: Ah… hmmm.... again you have to bear in mind it’s the Eastern Conference and that always helps in the win/loss column. Added to that, the Hawks are a team on the up, they have young players who -- you’d imagine -- are going to continue to get better and it’s not too mad to think they can make some noise in a playoff race. So, I’ll go with a 35-47 record and the No. 10 seed. Sure, why not?
Rashad Milligan: 37-45, No. 9 seed. I have a hard time just jumping on the “defending champs are missing the playoffs” wagon at the moment, so that leaves the last playoff spot between Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta. I think the four-team race will come down to the final two weeks of the season, which works in favor of the Hawks with home-and-home with Charlotte, a home game against Detroit, Carter’s emotional goodbye to Toronto, a late-season rest game for Milwaukee and the finale at home against Cleveland. It is an absolute draw at that point, but I believe that it might just take the Hawks one more season to get fully familiar with winning on the NBA level.
Every team in the city can’t be ahead of schedule.
Zach Hood: 39-43, No. 8 in the East. This happens only if they get something out of at least one of the rookies, and Jabari Parker becomes one of the better reserves in the league, as the second unit will have to hold their own much better than they did last season.
Toby Adeyemi: I would say the Hawks finish at 39-43. They make a ten-game improvement, which is quite an impressive jump. I believe Young and Collins will both show tremendous growth this season and be the leaders of this. The rest of the team will all adjust to their roles accordingly through the season, and the Hawks will be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Ultimately they’ll miss it, finishing just out of it in the ninth or tenth slot. It will be for the better though; the Hawks will get one more top 10 pick and finish their rebuild.
Sam Meredith: I’ll go 33-49, but for what it’s worth I think this season is the last time that the Hawks will be bad for a little while. I see them as a playoff team in 2020-21.
Matt Harris: 41-41 and 8th in the east. Again, if Detroit can do it...
Glen Willis: 34 wins and a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference. If they do better than that it will be because Coach Pierce challenged the team to make an effort on defense that he did not ask of them last season. Even should that be the case they would still have to exceed my expectations in terms of defensive execution to be in reach of a .500 record and a potential playoff spot.
Andrew Kelly: I think 32 wins and an 11th place finish in the East. I expect the Hawks to make a modest improvement in victories owing almost entirely to internal improvement from Atlanta’s young core of Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter. But the supporting cast around them leaves much to be desired. There’s a scenario where the core three makes an even greater leap and find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt in March, but I think the rest of the rotation places a hard cap on what Atlanta can accomplish in year two under Lloyd Pierce.
Dylan Hughes: 40-42 to finish 8th in the East. This roster screams internal improvement and could look a lot like the 2018-19 Kings — who finished with 39 wins in the much-tougher Western Conference. It seems likely that at least two of Young, Huerter, and Collins will have a big leap this season and power the Hawks to the postseason.
Greg Willis: Making big jumps in the win column can be awfully tough in the NBA. The Hawks will get a lot of minutes from first and second year players and their will be a lot of learning going on this season. It will be exciting basketball but expecting this team to make a run at a .500 season and a playoff spot is a lot to ask. There will be a lot of positives but the loss of Dewayne Dedmon puts a lot of pressure Alex Len without a solid option to turn to if he struggles. I’ll go with 32 wins while falling short of the playoffs by about eight games.
Brad Rowland: I’m on record as saying my favorite Hawks bet right now is to win the division…. at 8-1 odds. Would I pick the Hawks to win the division outright? No, but Atlanta’s upside is well-documented and, when combined with unimpressive division favorites in Orlando and Miami, I can easily see it coming together. The Hawks do have some real question marks, though, and it could be argued (quite easily) that the team’s supporting cast, in a present-day sense (and not for the future), is actually worse today than it was in April. I’ll split the difference and project 34 wins, which is in the 10th/11th seed range in the East. Could they be better than that if Young, Collins and/or Huerter make big leaps? Absolutely. Could they be worse than that if the supporting pieces slip and a couple of things don’t go according to plan? Absolutely. But hey, 34 wins would represent significant improvement and, given the nature of the team’s schedule, it is likely that the Hawks will be ending the 2019-20 campaign on a high note.