The Atlanta Hawks have slowly built their way into a place where they are a couple pieces away from seeing their first postseason since 2017. The drafting of star point guard Trae Young in 2018 lifted the organization and opened doors for years to come. With the rise of promising power forward John Collins, the Hawks have built a strong duo, and have some solid pieces around them that are suitable to work towards a playoff spot this season.
After winning 29 games in the 2018-19 season, Hawks fans looked for their team’s record to only improve following the draft picks they made last summer. But with Collins missing 25 games with a suspension and rookies Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter battling typical growing pains associated with first-year players, the Hawks finished the abbreviated regular season with an underwhelming record.
However, the door to success remains open. With a lottery pick this upcoming draft, along with some solid free agents testing the waters this fall, the Hawks can have an eventful offseason and bring themselves even closer to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
There are plenty of fruitful free agents that the Hawks could ink this offseason. A big fish will be hard to catch in the fall for Atlanta, and this isn’t the craziest offseason for big names. However, they are only a few pieces away from seeing regular season success. It starts with their depth. Their second unit has room to be more dynamic, and there are a few players that can assume those roles successfully in no time.
Disclaimer: Popular belief is that the Hawks could land Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton with the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Haliburton provides Atlanta with an elite playmaker that can flow within the offense, and still succeed as a secondary ballhander behind Young with his ability to play away from the ball. Despite a funky form, Haliburton shot an efficient 42.6% from 3-point land through his two seasons as a Cyclone. He poses a threat at either spot in the backcourt, and with his shooting touch he can still be effective off the ball. The list below takes in the possibility of Haliburton as Atlanta’s draft-day target.
Editor’s note: The list below should not be seen as all-inclusive.
The Hawks were eighth in three-point attempts in all of the NBA during the 2019-20 season with 36.1 attempts a game. However, they ranked 16th in three-pointers made, and ranked dead-last in three point percentage at a measly 33.3% clip from beyond the arc.
With that in mind, Atlanta will look to add consistent perimeter shooting. Trae Young made 3.4 three-pointers per game this past year, doing plenty of work from the perimeter. He trails only seven guys in that stat — one of them being Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans.
Bertans boasted an impressive 42.4% clip from long range this season. Bertans averaged 15.4 points coming off the bench for the Wizards this year, and turned in some huge minutes. At 6’10, he stretches the floor tremendously, leaving room for perimeter options the Hawks choose to lead their second unit this year. He would be an interesting backup to John Collins, who’s primed to have a possible All-Star jump in 2020-21.
On paper, Bertans gives the second unit a much needed consistent presence at the four spot, as De’Andre Hunter and Treveon Graham assumed much of that role after the trade of Jabari Parker. If at some point the Hawks do choose to put Hunter in at the four on a more consistent basis, Bertans can slide over to the center spot and stretch the floor even further in all-offense looks.
Bertans isn’t the greatest defender by any stretch, but he does have size. He appears to have the will to play defense, but his frame doesn’t allow him to be an adequate rim protector. However, with bigs like Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon, he has rim protectors to fall back on. But with the touch and range Bertans possesses at his height, it is a tradeoff most teams are willing to accept.
Bertans’ shooting presence is virtually unmatched at his size. He comes off screens and handoffs with confidence, and with how deep his range is you’d think he has never seen a shot he didn’t like. You have to pick him up high, drawing the opposing team’s big man out most times. If you do play high enough to disrupt his shooting, he can backdoor you and finish around the rim.
All told, Bertans could help to produce top-tier offense in Atlanta, and he would add much needed frontcourt depth. He should be the Hawks’ top priority in free agency. Though he’s likely seeking starter money, the Hawks have already been linked to a potential pursuit and Atlanta is equipped with substantial salary cap space.
Burks, who is 29 years old, is a solid overall player that can find his way on most teams in the league. He had a pretty good season between the two teams he suited up for in 2019-20, and the 6’5 guard provides a veteran presence on a young team, and is versatile in his role.
Burks shot efficiently from deep throughout the year with both teams, and averaged more than 16 points a night while coming off the bench for the Warriors. Burks is one of the better scoring threats for a bench guy throughout the league, and likely could start on a handful of teams. His game is best suited for a second unit though, and with the rise of Reddish and the free agency of multiple perimeter players on Atlanta’s 2019-20 roster, there are some blanks needed to be filled.
Burks is a guy that can buy in and fit many systems. If he has to take on more minutes, he can, but at around 20 minutes per game, Burks can shine in a role with the Hawks. Burks usually spends his time at the off-guard spot. From there, he can play off the ball and score from deep, where he shot an average of 39.6% between his two stints this past season.
With the ball in his hands, Burks can create his own shot, and although he can find a mid range jumper or three-point shot with only a few dribbles, it’s nothing for him to put the ball on the floor and isolate for a possession to find a shot for himself. Burks is capable of running some point guard too, and is good for a few pick-and-rolls throughout a game.
Burks can initiate the offense if he’s the lone ball handler in the game. In other cases, he’d be taking pressure off of guys like Young, Huerter, Reddish, Teague (if he stays) or whoever fills the depth chart in terms of perimeter creation.
The Hawks also struggled with defense this season, finishing the regular season with the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA. While the addition of Capela — who has yet to suit up for Atlanta — aids their rim protection, the Hawks have some work to do with their backcourt defense. Burks has proved himself to be an improved defender over the past couple of years, and can add some decent perimeter defense to the second unit.
Glenn Robinson III
Robinson shared the floor with Burks for the entire duration of the season. However, Robinson started every game he played in Golden State until he was moved to the 76ers.
His numbers with both teams tell different stories, as he only started in four of the 14 games with the Sixers. His production on average is misconstrued because of this limited deployment, but in a role with the Hawks as their backup small forward, he can produce.
Robinson is known for several things. In any scenario, he can serve as a cutter. He is a great athlete who plays above the rim and finishes well.
He is also good for knocking down open three-pointers. During the 48 games he played with the Warriors this past season, he knocked down 40% of his shots from deep. Robinson is also someone that can find a way to score away from the ball, and he would be great in dribble handoffs with a shooter like Young, or even a guy like Haliburton.
Robinson takes pressure off of the Hawks’ playmakers in situations where hefinds himself open along the three-point line due to opponents over helping elsewhere or where Young simply creates an open look for him. Overall, he is a reliable outside shooter and can put it on the floor on his way to the rim if teams play too high on him.
Robinson knows his role on any team, and with the arranged list of shooters and potential playmakers that the Hawks can have on paper this upcoming season, Robinson makes it easy to plug him into this offense.
Defensively, he is a solid on-ball option who can take on the challenge of slowing down both guards and wings. With Lloyd Pierce’s “prevention and protection” defensive scheme, Robinson will prove useful as he gives wings a hard time and makes it difficult to penetrate the paint. Robinson is a good sized wing that also makes it easier when switching on defense, as he’s a guy that can guard multiple positions. It gives the Hawks some much needed perimeter defense, and can help hide Young’s defensive flaws if they share the floor.
With Reddish on the rise, there is a possibility that he takes Huerter’s spot as the starting two guard. In that case, Huerter can move to the backup shooting guard spot, while Robinson can earn his stay at the small forward spot behind Hunter. Even without this hypothetical, Robinson is a good option to have in your rotation in a league where it is virtually impossible to have too many quality wings.
Craig has played a vital role as a reliable defensive specialist for the Denver Nuggets over the last two seasons. He is a gritty, hard-nosed wing that can defend and rebound, even with a shaky 32 percent clip from three-point range in the last two years. Craig possesses a good size and frame, and makes it easier on defenses that switch with his defensive versatility.
Though he is a restricted free agent at the age of 29, the Hawks can certainly match a reasonable offer sheet, especially if they feel like they need another defensive specialist on the wing. Craig still remains a cheap option, and a reliable one if the Hawks want to add a perimeter defender.
A lot of variables play into the inclusion of Burke. Despite movement throughout the year, Burke finally found a home when Dallas signed him for the remainder of the season this summer.
Though he only played eight games for the Mavericks, Burke starred in his role and made a ton of noise in the playoffs. He started in three of six games against the Clippers in their first round matchup, and in 26 minutes per game, Burke poured in 12.3 points while shooting an incredible 47.1% from three-point territory.
While Burke can serve as a scoring threat off the bench for Atlanta, the connection does pose some disadvantages. Burke is undersized, and with Young already as the starting point guard, Atlanta might be looking for a more defensive approach to its backcourt on the second unit. The Hawks would also have to let Teague walk, and inevitably give Burke less minutes than Dallas offered him, especially if they choose to draft Haliburton.
After the postseason Burke had, it is hard to go without mentioning his name in the offseason for a team seeking depth at the lead guard spot. If the Hawks choose to just outscore their opponents, Burke is a guy to keep on the radar. If Atlanta plans to look for a better sized and more defensively capable backup for Young, then perhaps they should look elsewhere.