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2020-21 NBA season likely to be delayed: What it means for the Atlanta Hawks

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Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

In the midst of a global pandemic and an unconventional finish to the 2019-20 NBA season, uncertainty looms around the starting date of the 2020-21 season. For starters, there are well-chronicled rumors that the Dec. 1 start date for next season will be pushed back.

On Aug. 20, Rachel Nichols of ESPN spoke to Adam Silver in advance of the NBA Draft Lottery, with the NBA commissioner recognizing that this is a fluid situation.

Henry Abbott of TrueHoop also reported that the season may not begin until early March.

Finally, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports a “consensus hope the season can begin sometime in late December or January,” but indicates that there is a “strong likelihood” of a delay from the originally announced target date of Dec. 1.

The Atlanta Hawks could potentially go almost full calendar year without playing a meaningful basketball game. One of the “Delete 8” teams, the Hawks will not even be allowed to conduct voluntary group workouts until September. While the NBA has done an excellent job organizing and operating the Orlando bubble, excluding the Hawks could be a detriment to their development.

Whether or not the organization will outright say it, the Hawks are pushing to make the playoffs next season and take the next step in the rebuild. This team is extremely young and needs time and reps in order to become playoff contenders. They missed out on the bubble reps that proved to be useful for other young teams, like the Phoenix Suns.

While their 20-47 record may not suggest progress, the Hawks looked to be a little closer to competing towards the end of the season, and the team’s young talent is exciting.

Trae Young will be the cornerstone of the franchise for the foreseeable future, and he made great strides in his sophomore season, finishing second in the league in assists and fourth in points while maintaining high-level efficiency. In support, John Collins has improved in each of his three years and put up stellar numbers this past season. Atlanta may have won more games and he could have garnered All-Star buzz if it weren’t for his 25-game suspension early in the season. Cam Reddish began to show the league why he was such a highly touted recruit in high school the last couple months of the season. Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter are also strong pieces who will be entering their third and second years, respectively.

Yes, these are all young and promising players, but they need more playing time together. Pushing the season back is more time that the team is not getting meaningful game experience that is necessary for this franchise to get back to the playoffs.

The Hawks’ exclusion from the bubble also prevented the organization from evaluating how Clint Capela fits on the team. Atlanta traded for Capela back in February, but he has yet to play a second in a Hawks uniform due to a plantar fasciitis contusion in his right foot. He said he was healthy back in June, and the bubble could have been the perfect opportunity for him to get his feet wet with Atlanta.

Atlanta’s front office is seemingly confident that Capela will be able to bring a spark on both ends of the floor for the team, but everyone will have to wait and see how significant of an impact he is going to have. The Hawks sorely need a consistent rim protector and rebounder, and the hope is that Capela will be able to shore up some of these defensive weaknesses that plague the team.

The entire league awaits for a final decision on when next season will begin, but in the meantime, the Hawks have the 6th pick in the draft and free agency — both of which may be delayed — to add talent to their already young and talented roster. The earlier they can get back on the floor competing, the better for their team chemistry and development.

There is no definite answer yet, however it looks like the Hawks will have to wait beyond the Dec. 1 target start date to get back on the floor and continue their quest to become a competitive team in the Eastern Conference.