Beginning with Lloyd Pierce in March, members of the Atlanta Hawks are putting the focus squarely on the playoffs for the 2020-21 season. That is, of course, the logical goal for a team still in the midst of a rebuild but, with all kinds of roster uncertainty as the 2020 offseason (finally) arrives for all 30 teams across the league, mixed projections are rolling in for just how good the Hawks might be next season.
While every caveat should apply to any set of power rankings before the draft and free agency, ESPN’s 40-member panel weighed in with their “way-too-early” attempt this week. In the end, the Hawks came in at No. 24 overall, with Royce Young penning the following.
There were flashes of promise for the young Hawks, but inexperience, immaturity and issues derailed them early and they never found any momentum. John Collins’ 25-game suspension halted a promising start, and their defensive problems were prominent throughout. With another lottery pick, cap space and an attractive group in place, the Hawks appear ready to rise.
It should be noted that the Hawks are a bit higher in the gambling world, with 100-1 odds to win the 2021 title. That number placed Atlanta in a multi-team tie for 19th place and, on the more optimistic side, the initial odds actually put the Hawks on the precipice of playoff contention.
ESPN’s list is a bit less favorable, though, with the Hawks landing 10th among Eastern Conference teams. Though 10th in the conference actually seems better than 24th overall, the entire bottom tier of ESPN’s list included teams from the East — Bulls, Hornets, Pistons, Cavs, Knicks — and Atlanta lands just behind the Orlando Magic (20th overall) and Washington Wizards (21st overall) among Eastern Conference squads
Power rankings are always designed to inspire discussion and, when it comes to a version that is published a month before the draft even arrives, that is even more so the case with this set. Still, it is an indication of where writers from a prominent outlet see the Hawks before the roller coaster cycle of the draft and free agency arrives.
Oh, and the Hawks only have nine players under contract. A lot will change.