The 2020-21 NBA season is nearly here and, after the longest break in recorded history, the Atlanta Hawks will return to action in the coming days. Before the regular season tips off on Dec. 23, the Peachtree Hoops is coming together for a ten-part roundtable series, setting the stage for what’s to come. In part nine, our staff checks in with some bold predictions for the upcoming campaign.
Brad Rowland: Trae Young will lead the NBA in assists. I predicted this last year in a few different places and, even with the league’s worst three-point shooting team around him, Young almost pulled it off. This year, Young should honestly be the betting favorite, and he is one of the NBA’s best passers. Combine that with high usage and a vastly improved supporting cast, and Young should average double-digit assists per game. That is probably enough to win the assist title. For a bonus, Danilo Gallinari will be a major candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and may even win it.
Wes Morton: The Hawks swing a big trade in midseason for an established, and probably disgruntled star. There’s a few that reportedly have asked off of their team and could be had, and I have recently asked the question if John Collins is in the team’s plans going forward. There may be no better trade chip than an offensively gifted forward in Collins for the Hawks to use to swing for the fences in a trade.
Glen Willis: Well, the key word here seems to me to be bold. I think they very well may perform better on defense than the consensus suggests. I don’t think they are surely destined to be mired in the bottom ten again. The rotation will still have defensively challenged players, but if they can cut down on the turnovers (maybe not be the absolute worst) and can make enough shots, I think that gives them an outside shot at being a league average defense statistically. Don’t get me wrong. In a vacuum, I don’t see them being that good, I just see them setting themselves up for success much more frequently by way of more made shots and fewer live ball turnovers. If that happens, it’s not total lunacy to think they could be a league average defense.
Daniel Comer: Here’s one: The Wizards’ Westbrook experience becomes a train wreck and Bradley Beal forces a trade out of Washington. Enter Travis Schlenk, who dangles Collins, Huerter, Reddish and some draft picks in a blockbuster deal for the former Florida Gator. Boom. The Hawks have their second star.
Josh Lane: There is a chance for one of the top six teams in the East — like the Raptors for instance — to underperform, and the Hawks make it as one of those top six. Besides that, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if the Hawks were to make a huge trade for a disgruntled star like Beal or Harden.
Rashad Milligan: I think Trae Young will be considered a serious league-wide MVP candidate this season. Anytime you pair a top-five scorer and top-two assist man with depth and experience, the team should be decent enough to be as good as the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets or Miami Heat were last regular season. All of those teams had players who received MVP votes last season, and all of those teams won 44 games in the regular season, except for the Mavericks, who won 43 games. In an 82-game season, that’s how many games I have this current Hawks group winning, thus putting its best player in the MVP conversation.
Graham Chapple: I don’t feel as strongly about this one since the preseason began, but I’ll say John Collins to be named an All-Star this season. Collins has the capabilities to do this, but we’ll see what he is truly capable of producing this season when the team has actual expectations and the stats don’t matter when the win is all that matters now for the Hawks.
Ryan Kerley: My bold prediction is the Hawks will be the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the East. There will be some obstacles, but I think this roster is super talented. Obviously, there are the Bucks, Heat and Nets, but I’m not sold on the Celtics or 76ers this season. If the Hawks can click on both ends of the floor, I think they will be better than projected.
Zach Hood: The Hawks will be a top six seed in the East. Most models and experts have them closer to the No. 8 seed, but I think they will out-perform that expectation, and at least one team is bound to battle injuries and/or disappoint. That top six of Miami, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia seems like a safe bet, but things don’t always go as planned in the NBA.