The wait is over and we are finally here for the first week of NBA power rankings. Following a deep playoff run, the Hawks are looking to build on that and show the league that they deserve to be part of the upper teams in the conference. The season finally starts this week so let’s take a look at where the Hawks fall in the first week of the NBA power rankings.
NBA.com — No. 7
Preseason numbers get thrown out on Tuesday, but Trae Young’s preseason (37 field goal attempts, just five free throw attempts) was emblematic of a big, league-wide drop in free throw rate. No team was fueled by freebies last season more than Hawks (top five in both free throw rate and free throw percentage), so they will be a team to watch in regard to that trend, even if it’s about more than just the points of education regarding Non-Basketball Moves.
Onyeka Okongwu (shoulder surgery) won’t be back until December at the earliest, but the Hawks enter the season healthy on the perimeter, with Delon Wright having joined an already deep group of guards and wings. So Nate McMillan will have some interesting lineup decisions to make in fourth quarters. The last time that both De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish were available for a game that counted was Jan. 29, more than a month before McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce.
ESPN — No. 8
When we last saw them ... The Hawks made believers out of many in the NBA last postseason with their run to the conference finals. After taking out the Knicks in five games, they defeated the Sixers in seven and were tied 2-2 with the eventual NBA champion Bucks before bowing out in six games.
ESPN Forecast: 47-35
Caesars: 47.5 wins | Title odds: +4000
Hawks in NBArank
Trae Young (17)
John Collins (54)
Clint Capela (55)
Bogdan Bogdanovic (64)
Kevin Huerter (95)
Danilo Gallinari (99)
Most impactful offseason move: Removing the interim tag on Nate McMillan
Atlanta’s biggest offseason move was securing their coach to a long-term deal after he led them on a playoff run many didn’t see coming. Once McMillan took over as the interim coach in March, the Hawks finished the regular season with a 27-11 mark. It was a no-brainer for Atlanta to secure McMillan for the near future, especially after he connected with superstar point guard Trae Young.
Breakout candidate: De’Andre Hunter
Hunter only played 23 games in last year’s regular season and made it through the five-game Knicks series before having to sit for the rest of the playoffs. Hunter’s field goal percentage jumped from 41.0% to 48.4% last season because his 2-point percentage shot up from 45.4% to 58.2%. He improved at the rim, in the paint and in the midrange. If his 3-point percentage climbs back up, he could be a nightly 20-point threat.
Is John Collins’ preseason slam already the dunk of the year?The Debatable crew is impressed by John Collins climbing Jarrett Allen for a poster, and one panelist already is calling it the dunk of the year.
Pivot point for 2021-22: Was their playoff run a fluke?
The Hawks shocked the basketball world with their conference finals run, but there’s reason to believe it wasn’t just a one-time appearance. A wiser, hungrier Hawks team returns to try to spoil the Eastern Conference party once again.
Things changed last season once the Hawks switched coaches from Lloyd Pierce to McMillan, and the team responded immediately. Young’s scoring dipped by more than four points in the regular season compared to the previous season, but it turned into wins for the Hawks. Young ramped things back up in the playoffs, averaging 28.8 points and becoming a go-to threat when the Hawks needed him.
The Hawks return nine of their top 10 and 11 of their top 13 players last in terms of minutes played. They also added Delon Wright and draft picks Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper — the latter of whom might be one of the best two-way contracts in the league.
One game you can’t miss: Oct. 30 at 76ers
While Young made his biggest impact against the Knicks, Atlanta still eliminated the Sixers (and helped set off quite the chain of events for Philadelphia). This is their first trip back to the city of Brotherly Love.
CBS Sports — No. 6
Atlanta must be brimming with confidence after the way it finished last season, and Trae Young has officially made the leap to superstar status. Beyond him, the Hawks are one of the deepest teams in the league, which can sometimes be a problem if guys start to get unhappy with playing time. It will be Nate McMillan’s job to negotiate that, but the talent is certainly there to finish as a top-four seed in the East.
The Hawks seem to be getting love from in the rankings as they are starting within the top 10 at the beginning of the year. Atlanta will be under the microscope as everyone saw the success of the team from the previous post-season. Fans should be excited about this team as they look to build on last season as they begin their quest for homecourt advantage and cement themselves as a top team.