It’s all a matter of perspective.
If I told you a few years ago at the conclusion of the 2014-15 regular season that in just three short seasons the Hawks would go from 60 wins and an eastern conference finals birth to ‘competing’ for the top pick in the NBA draft, you would surely view it as a major disappointment. However, if I told you one year ago that Atlanta would go from an ugly-to-watch offense spearheaded by lazy Dwight Howard post-ups to a team with an exciting young core and a chance to add a future franchise cornerstone in June, you would likely view it as a success. So, the answer to this question all depends on your perspective.
In my opinion, in order to answer this question, one must consider what exactly Atlanta’s goals were coming into the season. It was fairly obvious from the beginning that this roster, after the departures of our old friends Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway, Jr., would not be competing for a championship this season. With that in mind, many fans saw this as a rebuilding year with a goal of netting as high of a draft pick as possible.
If this was truly the goal, then Atlanta certainly accomplished it. Atlanta currently has the third-worst record in the league at 22-57, and closes the season out with three straight games against playoff contenders. The chance for 60 losses is very real. With this many losses, the Hawks will surely end up with at least a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft.
Atlanta couldn’t have picked a better year to tank. This upcoming draft looks to be one of the most talented in years. Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, along with international star Luka Doncic, all look like they have the ability to potentially alter the course of a franchise. If Atlanta ends up with a top 3 pick, they will almost certainly select one of these players.
This season also saw the development of young players, like Taurean Prince and John Collins. After starting a playoff series to close last year, there was a certain level of expectation for Prince coming into this season, and for the most part, he has been excellent. He’s averaging over 13 points and 5 rebounds per game, quickly emerging as one of the brightest young stars in the league. Collins, Atlanta’s 2017 first round draft pick, looks to have been one of the biggest steals of the draft. Collins has consistently displayed his freakish athleticism and post scoring ability throughout his first year in Atlanta.
While it can be discouraging to examine just how far the Hawks have fallen since 2015, it is also uplifting to see that a bright future appears to be on the horizon. There are far worse rebuilding situations around the NBA (Brooklyn, Dallas, etc.) than the one taking place in Atlanta. Considering the circumstances, I think you have to acknowledge at least some level of success for the Hawks with this 2017-18 season.