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At the start of the 2018-2019 season, people expected one thing from the Atlanta Hawks, tanking. With the departure of Paul Milsap in the 2017 offseason, the Hawks’ front office and fans alike started preparing for the worst or, depending on how you look at it, the best. In that same year, the Hawks had drafted John Collins with the 19th overall pick and while he was a promising prospect most fans knew that he would have to grow in order to become a great player. In his first NBA season, Collins averaged 10.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 1 BPG. While his numbers may not take anyone back, it is the skill he showed that caught the eye of those who wanted him to be great, and needed him to be great, considering the state of Atlanta Hawks.
After enduring a grueling 2017-2018 season in which the Hawks went 24-58 and finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference, the basketball gods smiled on the Hawks as they got the 3rd pick in the draft which, after a trade, which turned into Trae Young. Young in his rookie season has shown tremendous potential to be a great player and being the leader and face of the franchise with elite passing and playmaking skills to go along with a great shooting ability averaging about 19 PPG, 8 APG while shooting about 42% from the field and 34% from the 3-point line. Although he may be a little undersized and lack defensive prowess it is definitely something that fans can look for him to improve on as his career goes along. While Young and Collins play off of each other very nicely with many, and yes I do mean many, alley-oop connections throughout just their first season together. The growth potential is there for the both of them not only individually but as a duo, the sky is the limit. Could we be looking at the next Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire forming in the ATL? So far it does not seem too unlikely.
In the same 2018 draft, the Atlanta Hawks took Kevin Huerter with the 19th overall pick. While Kevin Huerter is not the most flashy player on the court he radiates potential to be a good and consistent shooter. In his rookie season he is shooting about 38% from the 3-pt line while attempting about 5 3’s per game. His bread and butter is the catch and shoot 3-pointer but you would be surprised by his athleticism, getting above the rim for alley-oops and even a few of his own dunks this season. With Trae Young leading the offense going into the future, off ball players like Kevin Huerter will thrive in the Atlanta Hawks’ system of pace and defense.
The Atlanta Hawks’ young core seems pretty legit already and geared up for the future with Young, Collins, and Huerter but that isn’t where it ends. The Hawks could have 2 lottery picks in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft, one pick is top 5 protected by the Dallas Mavericks but if it lands outside of the top 5 it conveys to the Hawks, which could set up for even more young talent to be on the way to the great city of Atlanta. Prospects like Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, De’Andre Hunter or even Zion Williamson, with some luck of course, could be drafted to the Atlanta Hawks adding more potentially great players to a young core that is already poised for future success.
One thing the Hawks should look for in the upcoming draft is defensive players. Defense is obviously a key piece to any championship level team and as of right now I do believe that the Hawks young core lacks a bit of defensive ability. While Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce is an excellent defensive coach already, constantly preaching of how the team needs/wants to improve defensively and is pushing his players to do so it is no doubt some of the players just lack the capability to produce defensively right now. While players like Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins, and Deandre Bembry are good to great offensive and energy players, bringing their all every night, these guys just do not have the defensive capabilities needed to gain some success as of right now. Can and will they improve it? You can count on it but with potentially two lottery picks it does not hurt to go after someone with a little more defensive capabilities than others.
The Future is BRIGHT
The Atlanta Hawks’ GM, Travis Schlenk, has put this team in an amazing position to have a great future in the league but the key thing for Hawks fans to have is patience and hope. It is the moments like this that turn regular fans into diehards, it is when it becomes important that fans stand by the young players and support their growth because every playoff appearance, every championship, every dynasty has to start from somewhere. Right in front of us Hawks fans is the future, and while it is impossible to see just how much success this young core will bring the city, it is very possible to believe in them now and trust the process of rebuilding. So start hopping on the bandwagon now because when these players start to hit their stride and start making some real noise, Hawks fans aren’t letting anyone else on.