The rebuilding process of the Atlanta Hawks looks to be finished. They shocked the NBA world by making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and although it was an injury-riddled playoffs, the Hawks had their fair share of injuries as well. Trae Young is ascending into a legitimate superstar, while the front office has surrounded him with talent. Atlanta is no joke and they’re ready to compete.
Atlanta Hawks 2021-22 Season Preview
The 2020-21 Season
The Hawks finished last season with a 41-31 record, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference. This was also the 12th best record in the league. For a team that was supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild, Atlanta exceeded all expectations. Young wasn’t even selected as an All-Star, but any and all doubters were shortly proved wrong afterward.
Atlanta made easy work of the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. New York was a defensive juggernaut throughout the regular season, but the Hawks’ offense was firing on all cylinders.
The Hawks then faced the mighty Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, lead by stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. It was a tough seven-game series, but Atlanta emerged victoriously. It was clear Atlanta was legitimate.
The Eastern Conference Finals feature Atlanta versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Atlanta pushed it to six games but ultimately could not beat the eventual NBA champions. Of course, there’s no shame in that.
Young flashed in the playoffs and other tenured Hawks such as John Collins and Kevin Huerter played well too. It was the Hawks acquisitions before the 2019-2o season postponement and the following offseason that transformed the team, however. These players include the likes of Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Onyeka Okongwu, Lou Williams, and more.
Instead of dishing out max contracts left and right, the Hawks decided to add several top (but not “superstar” level) players around Young, and it worked brilliantly.
Atlanta Hawks Offseason
The Hawks didn’t have to do a ton of work this offseason as they’re already a talented team but still added a few players to hopefully transcend into true contender status.
They picked up Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper on draft night. Both players looked great in the Summer League. They’re not expected to have major roles this coming season, although they certainly can break out, they’re two players to watch for in the future.
Acquiring Delon Wright and Gorgui Dieng was solid as well. Wright is a defensive-minded guard who can still score and distribute. He lessens the burden on Williams as Young’s primary backup, but Wright can play the two-guard position as well.
Okongwu was fantastic for the Hawks last season but enters this season with an injury. Dieng is a very talented center who put up decent statistics of roughly seven points and four rebounds per game last season. He’s the right choice to fill the void for now.
Most importantly, Atlanta inked Young to a long extension and retained Collins this offseason. Young is the most important player on this team, and many can argue Collins is second.
Atlanta quietly improved a couple of weak points while also keeping their top talent this offseason.
Next Season’s Expectations
Atlanta will be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference next season. After they beat Philadelphia in the playoffs, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Atlanta is the third-best team in the East behind the Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Miami Heat improved immensely after a disappointing season, and the Knicks and Chicago Bulls made some splashes too. Atlanta will face heavy competition but will be right in the thick of things in their conference.
Young will have another great season and will definitely not miss another All-Star appearance. Collins and Capela will stand out as some of the top big men in the league, and other players like Hunter, Gallinari, and Bogdanovic will do well in their roles.
Atlanta is very deep and can score in bunches while also playing tenacious defense. This is a clear recipe for success, and they will enter the 2021-22 season as a dark horse contender.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images