Goal: Pair Trae Young up with another superstar.
It’s that simple. There really aren’t many depth issues with this Atlanta Hawks team, as we saw last year in their playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. But this year, they got exposed. In the first round, all the Miami Heat needed to do was double team Trae Young at the top of the perimeter, and he was done. There was no second guy that could create plays, or cause defenses to focus on. No disrespect to John Collins, but he just isn’t a star player that the Hawks can rely on. Make $25 million per year for the next 4, Atlanta put themselves in a really deep hole with him. This season he was supposed to prove that he could be a reliable scorer, but injuries and his play on the court said otherwise.
What star makes best sense for the Hawks?
Out of the available ones, I think it’s clear that Zach Lavine should be priority. He can help this team out defensively, and take a lot of the burden off of Trae. Lavine has admitted that he wants to test the free agent market, so there will be a lot of competition for the Hawks. One of those, being the team that originally drafted Trae Young, and have the same offseason goal as the Hawks, the Dallas Mavericks. Now, both Trae and Luka are proven superstars, who have crazy playmaking skills. Both have made it to the conference finals with no other All Star in the team, which goes to show just how good they are. The only advantage that Dallas has over Atlanta in the Lavine Sweepstakes is in the sign and trade department. Specifically, looking at Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. The Hawks could give away John Collins, but he wouldn’t be a great fit for Chicago playing alongside DeMar DeRozan. Putting Brunson in Chicago alongside Lonzo Ball makes more sense for the Bulls. But, could Bogdan Bogdanovic, Deandre Hunter, and a first be enough? Atlanta would certainly need to get more role players in free agency if this happened, but getting Lavine is a higher priority.
Potential Starting 5: Trae Young, Zach Lavine, Kevin Huerter, John Collins, Clint Capela
The Utah Jazz most recent playoff collapse seems like it has led to the ending of an era. Quin Snyder recently stepped down from his head coaching spot, and it is pretty likely that either Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell will be shipped out of Salt Lake City by the end of the summer. If the Jazz’s front office were to explore options for Mitchell, Atlanta is a name that would certainly appear. The biggest problem, though, is the defense. With Young and Mitchell in the front court, you can’t expect much on the defensive end from them. According to FiveThirtyEight, Mitchell is a bottom 20 defensive player, and Trae isn’t much better. This is something that might not be much of an evident issue in the regular season if the Hawks are able to win a lot of games, but come playoff time, it’ll be very noticeable. Another issue is giving Utah assets in return. Mitchell isn’t a free agent, so the Hawks will need to probably give away John Collins, a first round pick, Deandre Hunter, and possibly another player. That’s two starters and a first at least, which is a lot. But, it could make this team a lot better.
Ayton, who is at the end of his contract, is probably the most realistic star that the Hawks could land this offseason. Looking for a max contract that Phoenix is unwilling to offer, we saw Ayton continue to grow and expand his game this year. He’s gotten a lot more comfortable with his jumpshot, and is obviously a pretty good rebounder. If Ayton and the Suns are able to reach some sort of agreement to do a sign and trade, Phoenix could end up getting Clint Capela in return. This benefits both teams, as Capela is probably the best replacement the Suns can get this summer if Ayton departs. The big question though, is if Deandre Ayton can flourish into an All Star-like player alongside Trae Young. A trio of Collins, Ayton, and Young would be one of the best in the league.
How to approach the bench?
Trading for a star, whether it be Mitchell, Lavine, or another one means giving up a lot. Maybe young talent like Jalen Johnson or Sharife Cooper. Along with Deandre Hunter, Bogdanovic, and maybe even a Capela. The Hawks have until the 29th of June to waive PF Danillo Gallinari and pay $5 million. If not, he would remain on the team, and would be getting paid $16.5 million. If I’m the Hawks, I think it’s smartest to keep him if you don’t trade him. He seems to like the team, and the direction they are heading in. He was a big part of how they were 2nd in NBA 3 point percentage. Aside from him, I feel Atlanta could and should try to acquire T.J. Warren, especially if Collins in traded. Warren showed tremendous growth in the bubble, and could be one of the best 3rd options in the league if he comes to Atlanta. He is fresh now, after his foot will now be fully healed. He is a solid defender, and could be a great pickup IF Atlanta signs him at the right price.
We know how good Travis Schlenk is in the offseason, but this one is a make or break. Can Atlanta prove that the 2021 playoff run wasn’t a fluke, or will they continue to fall short due to a lack of stars?
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