NBA 2019-20: Looking at Atlanta Hawks' strategy heading into the offseason
The Atlanta Hawks had a disappointing season in terms of wins and losses but there were plenty of bright spots in what was another year of tanking. They finished with an abysmal 29-53 record posting the 23rd best offensive rating and the 27th best defensive rating in the league. However, thanks to some clever maneuvering by Travis Schlenk, they possess a number of picks in this year's draft which can be used to generate even better assets.
The Hawks still have Trae Young, who if not for Luka Doncic's stellar rookie campaign would be the clear Rookie of the Year and John Collins who entering his third season is beginning to look like a multi-faceted offensive big man reminiscent of a younger, rawer Blake Griffin (he's not the player Blake was but he can get there).
Kevin Huerter looks like a good offensive wing who could someday become an elite catch and shoot threat or even a good off the dribble shooter who can play third fiddle to Young and Collins. With all this said, let's look at how Atlanta can hope to maximize their young core and potentially become contenders in a few years.
Approaching the NBA Draft
The Hawks have a plethora of picks including two lottery picks and a mid first rounder in addition to three second rounders. Their primary concerns are going to be to find complementary fits to their nucleus of Young and Collins, however, Schlenk has said that he will draft the best available player which might prove to be an interesting strategy given the not so deep draft this year.
The Achilles heel of the Hawks would be the defense of their star duo (or lack thereof) and so it is of vital importance that they draft solid and switchable defenders both inside and outside the arc. And so the Hawks must think about drafting long, rangy wings who can effectively space the floor and be able to take the defensive pressure off of Trae Young and strong bigs who can battle inside against the likes of Embiid, Giannis and Siakam (just in the East).
And so with the 8th pick, the Hawks should select Cam Reddish if he's still available. He has the highest star potential outside of the top 3. A potential multipositional defender with projected NBA 3-range both of the dribble and in catch and shoot situations, he also benefits from being a point guard till high school. This means he's used to playing as a lead ballhandler and can playmake at a decent level making him good with their offense bereft second unit.
Reddish also has the ability to potentially run pick and rolls as the ball handler and the screener in a pick and roll game which when paired with Collins as the roll man or Young as the ball handler. He has great hands and posted the highest steal rate amongst the Duke boys this year. He appears to have an unsteady motor and often looks passive while driving to the rim and sometimes switches off on defense.
This could be a byproduct of being the third option on a strong Duke team and seldom being involved in the offense, unlike his previous experiences throughout AAU and high school. His body frame is slender with wide shoulders which appears to be a frame that is likely to become more muscular later on in his career. He has excellent shot mechanics with a high release point combined with his height and wingspan which makes it difficult for defenders to alter his shot. His maxed out self could look similar to a Paul George or a less aggressive, better shooting Rudy Gay. He would certainly be a great pick for the Hawks because of a good fit and the upside that he could have.
Another player who looks interesting for the Hawks is NCAA Champion De'Andre Hunter. He is already a very solid player and fits the profile as a solid wing defender with some switchability, rebounding and a decent ability to space the floor. His solid frame and decent vertical ability mean he can play as a small ball 4 and can be a good roll man for the small lineups.
However, Hunter doesn't seem like a transformative player but he is a player who can contribute right away. He shows flashes of 3 and D similar to a Jae Crowder or a DeMarre Carroll but an improvement in shot-creation and decision-making could result in him becoming a player who plays like a better version of Taurean Prince. However, it is unlikely he drops this low.
Other solid picks include Jaxson Hayes- a player in a similar vein to a Clint Capela or a better defensive version of JaVale McGee. He has great hands, is supremely athletic and has a superb motor on offense and defense. He bears a likeness to another Texas alum in Jarrett Allen. The most interesting potential upside is that he shot 82.3% from the line in the college which indicates that he has got good shot mechanics and may develop the ability to spot up from 3-point range which is an essential tool for players in the modern NBA. However, he operates in the same territory as Collins and so he could be detrimental to their spacing in the offense.
With the 10th pick, either of Sekou Doumbouya or Brandon Clarke look like good bets. Sekou is a supreme athlete who has a nice shooting touch but is very raw. He reminds me of a young Giannis or a Pascal Siakam. Much of his development depends on his desire but he has the natural tools to succeed.
Brandon Clarke fits in with the ideal that Schlenk seems to be pursuing, that of rebuilding a team in the same vein of the Golden State Warriors. He's a 6'8" PF who has a limited offensive game but has remarkable defensive instincts and potential. He's a hustler, sets good screens, has good hands, can finish at the rim and makes the right decision a lot of the time. Remind you of a certain Warrior whose name rhymes with Paymond Breen?
The development of a solid midrange and post game would elevate Clarke's ceiling to an All-Star player like Paul Millsap. Like the aforementioned players, he has his vulnerabilities with him most notably being undersized as a small ball 5 which makes his job defending centers with post-up ability supremely difficult.
I won't go too much into detail about the other possible picks but with the 17th pick, the Hawks can look at Matisse Thybulle who is a great defender and could be a superb complement to Trae Young as a probable off-ball threat. Atlanta could also look at Nick Claxton who is another good defender and could develop a good jumper.
It is probably in Atlanta's best interest to preserve as many players as they can from this year's team and give them another year to develop into more polished players. But picking up players such as Nerlens Noel or Noah Vonleh would help them boost their defense. If they do want a good backcourt player they can try to sign Malcolm Brogdon who would be the best complement to Trae Young (outside of maybe Jrue Holliday). However, Brogdon would not be cheap, to say the least. Mike Muscala is also an intriguing piece. The Hawks can also look at Kelly Oubre or my personal favorite Christian Wood.
My honest opinion is that they shouldn't really pursue any players who could potentially have a big cap hold on them in the near future.
I honestly think that Atlanta has one of the better rebuilds in terms of everything coming along on a nice timescale. They've done a great job in the draft, stealing Collins, taking a risk with Trae Young (which has paid off pretty well so far), drafting Huerter and accumulating a lot of assets along the way.