Despite the poor record, it’s time to get excited about the Atlanta Hawks.
From the outside, people write off these Atlanta Hawks as just another bottom feeder in the NBA. But something special is cooking in Atlanta.
The Hawks currently sit at 11-25 and 12th out of 15 in the Eastern Conference. After a dismal first 25 or so games where the team was getting blown out more often than not, some fans were questioning everything.
As Luka Doncic kept racking up good game after good game, the whispers turned to shouts about the well publicized trade. Some were even questioning whether or not Lloyd Pierce was the man for the job.
But in the last few weeks, something has gotten into this team. They’ve been playing with a sudden confidence and swagger. In the last seven matchups, the Hawks have gone 5-2 with the only losses coming to a very good Indiana team. Those losses were close and hard fought I may add.
But what makes this rebuild different than rebuilds of other NBA teams from the past such as Orlando who seem to have been rebuilding for a decade?
The Hawks actually have a plan. As well as having a good foundation in place off the actual playing court. From GM Travis Schlenk, Owner Tony Ressler, Head Coach Lloyd Pierce, everyone is on the same page which couldn’t be said about the previous regime.
For as great as Coach Bud was, he was reluctant to let young players learn from their mistakes. It was evident last year that he was not the man to bring a team through a rebuild. This year, Coach Pierce has shown that he is not afraid to let the young guys play through their mistakes. In a season where it is virtually guaranteed that the team will not make the playoffs it is much more valuable to have the guys learn on the fly instead of playing veterans.
By bringing in veterans like Vince Carter and Jermey Lin, GM Travis Schlenk proved that this is not going to be a flat out tank. Carter and Lin have played an instrumental part in aiding Coach Pierce as well as our young guys in navigating the tough losses and holding the players accountable for their mistakes. While some fans want us to just lose, lose, lose, their development is much more important. The last thing you want is the young guys such as Trae Young developing bad habits or thinking that losing is okay and acceptable. That would do no good bringing a player like Zion Williamson into that environment.
The mix of youth and veterans on the 2018-19 team is perfect for remaining competitive in most games while keeping that flexibility Schlenk always speaks of.
As for on the court, the Hawks have three very good building blocks already in place in Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter.
Season Averages: 15.6 PPG | 7.4 APG
Yes, I know the shooting numbers are ugly. But shooting can be improved. Defense can also be improved. But where Trae Young excels is at the things that can’t really be taught. His playmaking, passing, court vision and confidence are all off the charts.
He sees our tweets and I’m sure he sees all the comparisons to Luka Doncic but he doesn’t let that shake him.
After a good first few games, Trae hit a severe shooting slump where it seemed like nothing he threw up would go down. But he didn’t let that shake him, he kept shooting.
As time went on, he eventually began to become more efficient.
However in the past few weeks, he has taken his game to another level. His teammates are learning how to play with him, the passes are getting more on point and he’s taking and making better shots.
Trae Young in his last 6 games:
16.7 points per game
8.2 assists per game
3.7 rebounds per game
— Trae Young SZN (@traeyoungtime) December 31, 2018
After Monday’s game in Indiana Trae has made 12 of his last 22 three’s and has brought his percentage up to 28% after it had tanked to 24% a few weeks ago.
— NBA (@NBA) December 31, 2018
Passes like those have become a nightly occurrence.
Trae currently averages 7.4 APG which leads the Rookie class by a country mile. Once the Hawks acquire more shooters and better bigs there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect Young to lead the league in assists.
It will also take a lot of pressure off of him. Right now, defenses are defending him like he’s Curry as illustrated by former Wizards Guard Austin Rivers. “He’s 23 percent but I treat him like he’s f*cking Steph or Dame [Lillard]” Rivers said after the Wizards victory earlier this season.
Season Averages: 18.7 PPG | 10.4 RPG
He’s more than just a dunker. Since returning from injury, John Collins has turned into an absolute monster.
John Collins’ last 13 games:
— Kevin Chouinard (@KLChouinard) December 31, 2018
It took a few games to get into the flow of things, but Collins has since rocketed into one of the more exciting players in the league. Most of his work comes around the basket, but he also can step out and knock down the three at a respectable rate.
Most of his baskets come off pure hustle and rolls. In fact, Coach Pierce was quoted saying “I literally have not called a single play for him.”
Collins has also shown leadership after several losses displaying his displeasure with the team getting their “a**es kicked” on multiple occasions.
JOHN COLLINS INCOMING! 😤#TrueToAtlanta
— NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2018
This isn’t just a hot stretch for the man from Wake Forest. We could very well be looking at a 20/10 player for the next several years. Let’s do him a favor and get him to the All-Star game and Dunk Contest in Charlotte. #JCtoNC
Season Average: 7.9 PPG
The numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet but lets pause for a second. Huerter missed the entire summer dealing with a wrist injury. Coming into the season, I didn’t think he’d break the rotation until later in the year and thought he would require some time in the G-League.
Kevin has increased his numbers each month in the league so far and you can see his growth almost daily. He is a flat out knock down shooter which is a big reason why Atlanta has had much more success as of late.
While he may look innocent, he can also throw it down with authority.
KEVIN HUERTER WOULD LIKE FIVE SECONDS FOR REBUTTAL. pic.twitter.com/GNWrErKVm0
— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 31, 2018
Huerter has the ability to develop into one of the better two way players in the league.
Despite owning the second worst point differential in the league these three bring some hope. The trio of John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter have a net rating of +2.3 in 304 minutes of action. Since December 18th, that number balloons to +16.1 in 108 minutes of action.
The Hawks will likely head into the 2018 offseason with two additional lottery picks to add to this dynamic core of youth.
If all goes well, we could be looking at a borderline playoff spot by next season. Losing may be hard, but the Hawks decided to do it the right way and it looks like it’s going to pay off.
Head on down to State Farm Arena and check out the team. They don’t disappoint. No matter who the opponent, Coach Pierce has them hustling their hearts out.
The future is bright, Hawks fans!
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