A new start to the season means a new set of NBA Power Rankings. With what feels like a completely new team, the Atlanta Hawks have only had four preseason games to work on team and player chemistry. Before they tip off on Wednesday in Chicago, let’s see where the Hawks rank in some national power rankings.
NBA.com: No. 21 overall
It’s possible that the Hawks’ two highest-paid players — Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic — will both be coming off the bench. (Bogdanovic started two of their four preseason games.) And it kind of makes sense, given that the offense was solid when Trae Young was on the floor and dreadful when he wasn’t last season. Young play pick-and-roll with Clint Capela and, perhaps, some improved shooting from De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. And then Bogdanovic and Gallinari can feast against other reserves. In the preseason, the Hawks were actually much better offensively with the second unit on the floor without Young.
They’ll likely close games with all Young, Bogdanovic and Gallinari all on the floor. And Lloyd Pierce will have some interesting decisions in regard to the who’s the big (Capela or John Collins) and who’s the other perimeter player (Hunter, Reddish, Rajon Rondo or even Kevin Huerter) when he needs a bucket or a stop. The pieces are there and we got a taste of how some of them can be used — Gallinari as a high-post initiator, screen the screener with Bogdanovic — in the preseason.
Defense is another story, of course. The Hawks’ first nine games are all against teams that had losing records and ranked in the bottom 11 offensively last season, though two of those are against the Nets, who just might be better on that end of the floor this year.
Sports Illustrated: No. 19
Atlanta signaled its desire to reach the postseason with an offseason spending spree, and the Hawks are likely to be rewarded for their gamble. Bogdan Bogdanović will provide necessary playmaking to take the load off Trae Young, though perhaps it’s an interior addition that will make the most notable impact. Clint Capela is solid enough as a rim protector and perimeter defender, and he should feast in the paint on a steady diet of pick-and-roll alongside Young. Capela was an integral part of Houston’s rise in the Western Conference in recent years. He should play a similar role with the ascending Hawks in 2020–21.
CBS Sports: No. 17
If you haven’t watched a Hawks preseason game, you’re missing out. They have the potential to be one of the best offenses in the NBA this season, with Trae Young surrounded by shooting (Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter), lob threats (Clint Capela, John Collins, eventually Onyeka Okongwu) and promising young wing talent (DeAndre Hunter, Cam Reddish). Time will tell whether the defense will be good enough to get them into the playoffs, but dropping 150 points in a game isn’t out of the realm of possibilities with this group.
It certainly isn’t a surprise to see projections that the Hawks will be looking to battle for a playoff spot in the East. Whether or not they make it is a totally different discussion, but we’ll check in each week for the latest.