Atlanta Hawks: Steps to Contention

The Atlanta Hawks have as much young talent as any other team in the league. Trae Young is an offensive wizard and already an All-Star, John Collins is a high-flying big who can dunk and shoot with the best of them, and other options such as De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter are on their way to living up to their potential. The tools are there, yet, the Hawks finished a disappointing season with just 20 wins.

How the Atlanta Hawks Can Make the Playoffs

Step One: Sign a Talented Veteran Wing

The Hawks’ wing group of Hunter, Huerter, and Cam Reddish have potential, but the team must add a veteran to that group. Sources close to Last Word on Pro Basketball tell us that Atlanta has their eyes set on Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets this offseason.

Harris is an important piece to the Nets, but his impact on the team will be slightly limited if he stays next season. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be healthy, while Caris LeVert emerged as a major threat in the NBA Bubble. For that reason, expect Harris to move on.

As of right now, the Hawks are going to have $43.2 million in cap space this offseason so affording Harris will be easy. He’ll quickly jump to the third option on offense for Atlanta, as seen in his averages of 14.5 points per game this season. Harris is special because of his deadeye shooting from deep. This season he shot 42.4 percent from three, ranking him at seventh in the league in terms of accuracy. With that being said, he also currently finds himself with the 12th best three-point percentage in league history.

He’s going to get as many open looks as he could possibly imagine playing alongside Young. A rotation between Harris and Huerter, another solid shooter, at shooting guard gives the Hawks a very formidable duo.

Additionally, Bleacher Report suggested the Hawks are planning a significant offer for Davis Bertans. Bertans could add more spot-up shooting and drastically improve an offense that struggled to make shots at times. However, he will be more expensive than Harris.

Step Two: The Atlanta Hawks Must Extend John Collins

Collins is set to hit free agency in 2021. He already produces like a borderline All-Star, so Atlanta needs to make him a priority. Collins has produced in the NBA for three seasons, and he’s just 22-years-old.

Collins can do a little bit of everything, which is what makes him special. First of all, he’s an extremely athletic forward with plenty of bounce. He’s a major lob threat when on the floor with Young. On the defensive end, his vertical and wingspan combine to make him a rim protector and shot-blocker.

Clint Capela will free up Collins defensively, so he doesn’t have to release all his energy on that side of the floor. With that being said, Collins is also a fantastic rebounder, and the combination of him and Capela will dominate the glass.

Collins is best on the offensive side of the floor. His high-flying dunks fill up the highlight reel, but his shooting cannot be understated. He’s a legitimate floor-spacer. Last season, while playing 33 minutes per game, Collins shot 40 percent from three. He’s a nightmare match-up, and opposing defenders will have to be agile and athletic to keep up. Collins is also a solid free-throw shooter. He shot 80 percent from the line last season, which bodes well with his ability to attack the rim and get fouled.

There are few better power forwards than Collins in the league today. Those that are better are cemented on their current teams and unlikely to leave. The Hawks must extend Collins as it’s unlikely they find a better replacement.

Step Three: Set Sights on Tyrese Haliburton in the NBA Draft

The Hawks will be drafting sixth in the 2020 NBA Draft. They’re in somewhat of an awkward spot. They look set at point guard, power forward, and center, and are better suited addressing other issues through free agency rather than the draft if they want to accelerate their rebuild.

A solid draft option for them is Tyrese Haliburton from Iowa State.

Draft opinions of Haliburton vary. He’s not a superb athlete and is a “tweener,” meaning he can play both guard positions. Haliburton is not a traditional point guard, but not a true shooting guard either.

There are plenty of positive aspects of his game that make him worthy of a high draft pick, however. First of all, he has a high basketball IQ. He’s a fantastic passer and his height for the point guard position makes him a strong rebounder.

In addition to that, he’s a great shooter who already has NBA range. Last season he had a 50-42-82 shooting split. What really sets him apart, however, is his defense. His off-ball defensive, while in a backcourt with Young, will certainly limit a lot of Young’s defensive deficiencies. Defense was a major problem for Atlanta this past season, and it must be addressed.

Haliburton isn’t likely to be a starter on this Hawks team, but he’ll be one of the first names off the bench every game. Selecting him would be a safe bet for the Hawks.

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