What the Atlanta Hawks Need to Do Ahead of the 2021 NBA Season
There seems to be no shortage of talent on the Atlanta Hawks roster. Unfortunately, what you have “on paper” is trivial compared to the product you put out on the floor. Lloyd Pierce’s squad finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and ranked dead-last in points allowed (119.7/game).
It starts with effort, and unfortunately, Trae Young and his teammates didn’t have enough of it on the defensive end of the floor. That’s why adding hard-nosed defenders are among the Atlanta Hawks’ biggest needs heading into 2021.
Starting there, let’s take a look at what else this organization needs to improve upon.
Atlanta focuses too much of their energy on offense, but it’s gotten to the point that they essentially don’t take any pride on defense. 119.7 points per game are way too many to surrender if you expect to win games.
If the lack of effort on this side of the court isn’t apparent in that statistic, take one look at the coach’s look of dejection following a disastrous performance against the Grizzlies.
A healthy Clint Capela clogging the post is a great place to start, but the Hawks need defensive stoppers on the perimeter if they plan on making any sincere progress. Free agents like De’Anthony Melton and Langston Galloway come to mind, and don’t forget that Atlanta owns the 6th pick in the upcoming draft.
At 6’6” and 225-pounds, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro was an elite defender in college. He’s got all the physical tools to translate to the next level.
Another way to shore things up defensively is to pluck a veteran leader off the market. Even if it’s not someone who’s going to contribute 30+ minutes a night, having a voice in the locker room who’s “been there and done that” could go a long way. Someone who can preach the importance of playing “in your face” defense for 48 minutes.
Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, even Aron Baynes to a lesser degree, but a player who has experienced success in this league and knows what it takes to get there. The average age of the Hawks roster in 2019-20 was 25.5 years old – and that was including a 43-year-old Vince Carter ballooning that number.
Three starters are 22, and John Collins just turned 23 at the end of September. With Vinsanity now moved on, it’s crucial to add a vet who can point the young core in the right direction.
Backup Point Guard
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Hawks bring back Jeff Teague in 2020-21. In fact, it appears that Teague has already moved on in his mind and is thinking about which contender he can sign with.
Jeff Teague discussed his memories with the Hawks and coach Budenholzer, how Jimmy Butler convinced him to sign with the Timberwolves, how he tried to convince Butler to stay before the 76ers trade, Tom Thibodeau stories, and his upcoming free agency.— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) October 30, 2020
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The Hawks have an assortment of wing players to rely on and a budding frontcourt with John Collins and Clint Capela. What the second unit needs is a dependable PG to spell Trae Young.
Under the assumption that Goran Dragic and Jordan Clarkson would be out of reach, perhaps Kris Dunn or Alec Burks could be targeted. Bryn Forbes would be a great fit.
In any case, waving goodbye to Teague paves the way (and opens up the checkbook) to be able to find a more than suitable replacement.
The Atlanta Hawks’ biggest needs are basically anything that will expedite the process of convincing the young players to start pouring effort into their defense Drafting or signing a defensive specialist is one way to get there faster, acquiring a proven veteran with a wealth of playoff experience is another.
The two could go hand in hand.
A backup point guard who can provide a spark to the bench is also a prerequisite for Atlanta to take the next step. Otherwise, it could be another disappointing year hanging out in the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings.
If you’re betting on the NBA ahead of the new season and the Hawks are on your radar for any wagers, you might want to see how they address their needs before putting any money down.