The Atlanta Hawks have kicked off a new season, and our staff has a few takeaways from how the Hawks looked on opening night. There are still some questions, obviously, in terms of exactly how the rotation is going to play out for the Hawks this season, so we answer a question about some of Atlanta’s new depth with an eye on how it impacts the lineups.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Hawks season opening win vs. the Dallas Mavericks?
Zach Hood: The defensive performance was too good to ignore. The Mavs would obviously probably make a few more of those shots if they played again, but the continuity and quality of defense they played in the paint was extremely impressive for it to be the first game of the season, and the first game that John Collins, Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter played together since the Knicks series. Hunter was vicious in 1-on-1 matchups with Luka Doncic, and when they had to bring help everyone was in sync. Dallas tried to post up Trae Young with Dorian Finney-Smith, but that proved to not be worthwhile. Atlanta’s ability to implement and execute a defensive gameplan so well in the first game of the season is the biggest takeaway for me.
Andrew Kelly: The Hawks continued their trend of being stifling defensively with all three of Hunter, Collins, and Capela on the floor. Hunter’s health this year could determine the difference between being solid defensively and being perhaps a top 10 unit.
Wes Morton: The Hawks were expected to be deep, but even missing three rotation players in Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Onyeka Okongwu, they bludgeoned the Mavs with waves of players. The Wingstop duo of Hunter and Cam Reddish put the clamps on Luka, Collins and Dieng showed some versatility and improved playmaking, and even a less than great Trae game couldn’t stop Atlanta from cruising to victory.
Malik Brown: The biggest takeaway for me was how locked in the team was defensively. Hunter showed why he is so important on this team with the way he gave Doncic problems, but everybody else seemed to be on the same page as well. If they can really hone in on their defense this season, it could take them really far.
Bowser: That I’m glad Jason Kidd doesn’t coach Atlanta. Besides that, the opener versus Dallas was a great showing of how many weapons Atlanta has, despite the fact that players like Gallinari and Onyeka were injured.
Glen Willis: The number of players that they played through on offense, especially in the first half. They got shot creation from (in addition to Trae Young), Collins, Hunter, Reddish, and others. Dallas defensively was naturally prioritizing Young, but the Hawks didn’t have any trouble generating offense throughout the game.
Josh Lane: John Collins continued where he left off in the playoffs. He continued to be a plus defender while scoring from either in the post and from the perimeter.
What are your expectations for newcomers Delon Wright, Gorgui Dieng and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot?
Zach Hood: Wright and Dieng will be pretty important over the course of the season. Dieng obviously will be more important while Onyeka Okongwu is out, and it will be interesting to see what the roles are once Atlanta has all of their bigs in a couple of months. Wright is going to be a Swiss army knife in the backcourt for Nate McMillan, filling in both on and off the ball while providing solid defense as well. If the Hawks were to suffer an injury somewhere on the wing or in the backcourt, Wright is someone who’s role could end up expanding as more minutes come open. TLC played real minutes on the Nets last season, and could be useful if the Hawks are low on shooters on a back-to-back or get short on a wing depth for any reason.
Andrew Kelly: To echo others, Dieng is going to be a key rotation piece until Okongwu returns. I’ve always been a fan of his game and he’s a quality reserve center. TLC I think is someone who can fill in at a pinch with his versatility along the wing positions, similar to Solomon Hill. Wright has been a good backup guard for years and his ability to play on and off ball allows him to fit snugly next to both Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in lineups.
Wes Morton: I think Dieng will have the biggest impact of the trio. He can stretch the floor and dish passes better than Capela or Okongwu. His conditioning in the preseason was a sore spot for Coach McMillan but he’s been forced to hit the ground running with sizable minutes for Dieng due to the hits to the frontcourt.
I think Wright will battle for backup point guard duties with Lou Williams, and will mostly look to hound guards defensively in his sparse minutes going forward. If he can spot up for threes (37% from long range last season), he’ll truly become viable playing next to Trae Young in a way the Hawks haven’t had in their point guard core. And barring a rash of wing injuries, let’s just say Luwawu-Cabarrot will stay fresh until garbage time periods.
Malik Brown: I’ve said this a few times already, but I think Delon Wright is the best backup that Trae Young has had. He’s a point guard with size that will work well in defensive lineups for the Hawks. Dieng is another solid backup that will do good in his role until Okongwu returns. I only expect to see Luwawu-Cabarrot during garbage minutes (like the Mavs game), or if there’s any injury at the wing position.
Bowser: Gorgeous Gorgui Dieng is a great addition. He opens up new possibilities on offense without drastically changing your defense. I expect Collins to be the biggest beneficiary from that pick-up: Once again, JC gets to be the go-to roll threat while Dieng offers the theoretical spacing that Dedmon, Alex Len, etc., used to. He’s not Kyle Korver, but he’s a good enough shooter that he could play with Okongwu when he comes back. Delon Wright is going to hurt Trae’s on/off numbers, which is a good thing. And I think TLC could creep his way into the rotation if Atlanta is hit with injuries again.
Glen Willis: Dieng is going to play critical minutes at least until Okongwu returns and I think he will add sufficient value on both ends of the court. He has some passing and shooting skills that offer something different than Capela. Wright pairing with Huerter on the second unit, as they did versus Dallas, is a nice combo that works well on both ends of the court. It will be interesting to see how that might change when Lou Williams is added to the mix. Luwawu-Cabarrot will have to take minutes from Solomon Hill, it seems, on nights when Danilo Gallinari doesn’t play of he’s going to see any actual rotation minutes.
Josh Lane: Dieng might be the most important since the Hawks will be thin at the center position to begin the season. Wright will be critical as he brings defense and offensive versatility Huerter and Reddish off the bench when Trae is off the floor. TLC will be solid in those minutes when a key player is unable to play. Think of him in that same position as Solomon Hill last year.