The 2019-20 season isn’t going according to plan for the Atlanta Hawks. Only truly enthusiastic supporters envisioned a playoff run for the Hawks but, in the same breath, there were expectations for a step forward that simply hasn’t taken place. Atlanta entered the Christmas hiatus on an eight-game losing streak and, dating back to November, the Hawks have lost 19 of the last 21 games. That isn’t a positive starting place for any team but, on the bright side, the Hawks have more young and exciting talent than a typical bottom feeder.
In this edition of our Holiday Wishlist series, we’ll break down what the Hawks will be hoping to find during the holiday season, including issues with the current roster and what might happen with the future.
#1: A healthy and available rotation to evaluate
His presence would not have cured every ill for the Hawks, but the suspension of John Collins came at a brutal time. Atlanta faced one of the most difficult early-season schedules of any team and, with Collins missing 25 games, the Hawks were rudderless. They simply didn’t have the talent to replace his athleticism and production, with the Hawks completely failing in his absence.
During Collins’ break from activity, the Hawks were also without Kevin Huerter for an extended stretch of time. That left Trae Young and company without two core pieces and, well, the results were brutal. The schedule is more forgiving as the season progresses but, more than anything, Atlanta simply needs to figure out what it has with Young, Collins, Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish as the team looks to the future.
#2: Shooting and more shooting
It seems odd to talk about shooting on a team with Young and Huerter, but the Hawks just don’t have enough of it. Atlanta ranks dead last in the NBA in three-point shooting, converting only 31.8 percent of their long-range attempts, and that is even more wild with Young hitting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. The return of Huerter and Collins will help, but the Hawks lost a lot of shooting prowess with the off-season defections of Taurean Prince (through trade) and Dewayne Dedmon (through free agency).
Eventually, De’Andre Hunter will probably make more than 33.6 percent of his threes and Cam Reddish almost has to shoot better than 26.8 percent from long distance. Still, the Hawks are a shooter or two short, leading Lloyd Pierce to give real minutes to Vince Carter and Allen Crabbe, neither of whom provide much else other than floor spacing.
#3: A starting center
Dedmon was effective for the Hawks during his two-year stint, becoming a dynamic shooter and providing Atlanta with league-average defense in the middle. Last season, Atlanta’s center of Dedmon and Alex Len was just fine but, after a slow start for Len, the Hawks started to give more minutes to Damian Jones and Bruno Fernando.
The results have been mixed (to put it kindly), with only Len truly providing league-average performance for the Hawks at center. In truth, it is clear that Len isn’t an ideal starting center but, with him serving as the clear-cut best option, Atlanta isn’t exactly setting the world on fire at center. Jones has a first-round pedigree and Fernando was a rookie with a strong reputation, but the Hawks just don’t have enough at center right now. They’ll be linked to off-season pursuits of Steven Adams, Andre Drummond and others, but Travis Schlenk just has to find a better center to align with his other core pieces.