NBA SEASON PREVIEW 2019-20
Oct 15, 2019 16:28 BST
Oct 15, 2019 16:28 BST
The Atlanta Hawks are a young, fun team, in the midst of a rebuild.
Having become a good (but not quite good enough) Eastern Conference challenger during the reign of LeBron James, the Hawks peaked in 2014-15, falling in the Conference Finals to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There are no remaining parts from that terrific team, which sent four – that’s right, four – players to the 2015 All-Star game (Al Horford, Paul Milsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver). This new, fun roster is centered around an intoxicating guard who, based on the opinion of a significant proportion of NBA fans, should have been Rookie of the Year last season — Trae Young.
It’s easy to dismiss a 29-53 record as a disappointment, but that’s oversimplifying the Hawks. Sure, there were no expectations leading into 2018-19, but there was a decent amount of optimism and hope.
The arrival of Young supercharged a relatively bland roster. John Collins was quickly building a reputation as one of the best dunkers to ever wear a Hawks jersey not named Dominique Wilkins or Spud Webb (apologies to Vince Carter, he doesn’t count at this point). Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore were solid, but neither were considered capable of being s star.
Trae was the name on many people’s lips at the start of the season, after the Hawks opted to draft the talented youngster. The small floor general generated electric hype in his time in college in Oklahoma, and didn’t disappoint in the NBA, looking every part a future All-Star.
Young, Collins and Prince formed an excited young trio that took leaps in their development, playing 81, 61 and 55 games respectively, while looking to veterans such as Carter and Bazemore.
Times have changed. Just 12 months ago the Hawks were written off, and while their position on paper wouldn’t have shocked many, their performances were a joy to watch. They became a League Pass second-option favorite – a team of upstarts with nothing to lose and plenty to prove. Now, at the start of 2019-20, the Hawks are a team many are looking forward to watching and many questions will be asked of them.
The biggest of them is regarding Trae Young. Will the prodigious talent continue his meteoric rise?
For the Hawks to move forward, he will have to. The rookie started and played 81 of 82 games last year, with a field goal percentage of 42 percent, averaging 19.1 points per game on 32 percent from beyond the arc, making a lot of it look easy.
That’s a solid debut season from a point guard who’s biggest strength is arguably his distribution. It’s Young’s court vision that sets him apart, averaging 8.1 assists per game. That was good enough for fourth in the NBA, behind Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul.
Collins and Young quickly became a duo that got people out of their seats. The big man showcased a diverse set of skills playing off the pick and roll, driving to the basket and showing the ability to step back and hit a three. The 6’10 power forward had a standout second year, and almost doubled his points per game from 10.5 in his rookie year, to 19.5 as his sophomore. Collins has proven himself to be a player not to be slept on and at just 22 years of age, he will be looking to make the 2019-20 season a year where everyone knows his name.
1. Smooth and easy
Trae Young is a player that makes it look easy while putting numbers on the board. Time slows when he has the ball in his hand and he has the full confidence of his teammates. Thought by many from his college days to be the new Chris Paul, Young will be looking to live up to that moniker.
This is a young Hawks roster with intriguing potential. Young, Collins, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Bruno Fernando, Charlie Brown and Ray Spalding are all 23 or under. It will be up to the likes of Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Chandler Parsons to bring experience to the side.
3. No pressure
This is a side with great potential, capable of playing in the paint and outside the arc. How well they’ll meld can’t be said, but they will have the benefit of playing without pressure. This is a side in transition and the players will be given the benefit of time. Expect a lot of fun viewing watching this group.
Trae Young | 19.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 8.1 apg
Prodigiously talented with the ability to make the game of basketball look a mere formality, Trae Young is a player who is a pleasure to watch while looking like an experienced veteran out there.
John Collins | 19.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.0 apg
The goal now for Collins is to showcase that 2018-19 was no fluke. JC struck up a wonderful partnership with Trae Young and they’ll be looking to showcase its development after a solid pre-season run. Is an All-Star berth out of the question?
De’Andre Hunter | 15.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.0 apg
What do the Hawks have in return for the fourth overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft? Seen by many analysts to project as more of a third option, supporting scorer than a true star, Hunter could surprise and prove the front office right after shooting 43 percent from deep and 52 percent overall in his second and final season with Virginia.