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Hawks depth could provide immense value as NBA returns to 82-game schedule

The Hawks will have the ability to both load manage and play to win in 2021-22.

Atlanta Hawks v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA is almost back, as Monday marked media day around the league. The Atlanta Hawks had all of their players present, and each player spoke to the media. A theme or talking point throughout the day was the depth the Hawks will have this season when healthy, and how exactly the coaching staff will be managing all of the quality rotation bodies at their disposal.

“We feel that we do have a deep roster with everybody coming back,” said head coach Nate McMillan Monday morning to reporters. “It’ll start with us in training camp, building and working to connect as a unit...these guys will learn where they will have to sacrifice, because they all will have to sacrifice probably a little bit more this season,” added McMillan.

“Yeah, I think coach is right,” said veteran forward Danilo Gallinari in regards to guys having to sacrifice. “Last year we had so many injuries, I think we only played one game with the full roster, then we started having injuries...we never played with the whole team. I’m excited to see that, like coach said it’s going to be sacrifice.”

Atlanta returns all key contributors from last season, and adds Delon Wright, Gorgui Dieng, Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper to the mix all while getting healthier across the board compared to last season minus the shoulder injury Onyeka Okongwu is rehabbing from. However, as the Hawks prepare to return to the 82-game marathon for the first time since 2018-19, they do have four players already managing some sort of injury that has carried over from the deep playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21.

De’Andre Hunter (knee), Clint Capela (Achilles), Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee), and Kevin Huerter (ankle) are all ‘limited’ to start training camp. All of these injuries stem from the grind of last season’s compact 72-game schedule then obviously the postseason run. Heading into 2021-22, the Hawks appear to be set to use a cautious approach this preseason. While Travis Schlenk and McMillan have both stated they expect everyone to be active come opening night, things do not always go as planned.

Whether it’s the beginning of the season or somewhere down the line, Atlanta now has the depth to let guys take all the time they need and more to get to 100%. Injuries ravaged the Hawks and many other teams last season, and the return to 82 games off another short offseason may be a recipe for more of the same if guys don’t receive adequate rest and recovery. Atlanta has the option to keep everyone fresh and hope injuries never pile up in the first place. If the injuries do come, they will have able bodies to call on.

Atlanta plays its first preseason game next Monday Oct. 4 in Miami vs. the Heat.

Stay tuned.