Atlanta Hawks: Criteria for a successful 2019-20 NBA season

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /

Now that the Atlanta Hawks have a tangible core in place, a direction is clear as well.

While most rebuilding teams are sugar-coated with the idea of promise, the Atlanta Hawks actually have something. A late-season surge at the end of Trae Young‘s rookie campaign gave the NBA a glimpse into what they could offer in the coming years.

Young was not the only bright spot last season; fellow rookie Kevin Huerter displayed an array of scoring skills in his first season, proving he’s more than just a spot-up shooter.

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Second-year big John Collins blossomed into a double-double threat, averaging 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds on an effective field goal percentage of 59.3. He also added a 3-ball to his arsenal, knocking down 34.8 percent of a robust 2.6 attempts per game.

This summer, the front office put an emphasis on supplementing those three.

Using their own first-round pick, Brooklyn’s first-rounder (via the Allen Crabbe salary dump), an early second-round selection and a 2020 first-rounder (top-10 protected, via Cleveland), general manager Travis Schlenk nabbed De’Andre Hunter with the fourth overall pick.

Hunter is the premier 3-and-D complementary wing, sniping 41.9 percent of the 160 threes he took at Virginia while often guarding the opponent’s best player. As a foil to Hunter, Atlanta took a swing on Cameron Reddish at No. 10, a high-upside wing who was miscast at Duke.

The Hawks also traded for Bruno Fernando, a traditional 5 out of Maryland (Huerter’s alma mater), early in the second round. Fernando is an athletic finisher who will take the backup 5 minutes that don’t go to Collins.

The rest of Atlanta’s offseason involved minimal risk. Absorbing Crabbe’s contract netted the team the requisite assets to trade up for Hunter, and Kent Bazemore was shipped to Portland as a favor to him.

Evan Turner will be a quality veteran presence who won’t interfere with the youngsters’ development.

Jabari Parker was the prototypical “why not?” signing, especially at one year and $6.5 million (player option for 2020). Parker came into the league with world-class scoring upside, but has not converted that talent into winning basketball yet.

He will have a short leash in Lloyd Pierce’s rotation, meaning that he’ll only play if he’s helping the rest of the team.

Using the assets and flexibility at its disposal, Atlanta targeted specific types of players, all of which can complement each other. This should expedite development for everyone; each player has his own role.

This should translate to success in 2019-20. Atlanta finished last season well, but Young and the gang have to prove that wasn’t a fluke. A large portion of the league is not itself in the last two months, whether it be contenders resting for the playoffs or bad teams turning up the tank meter.

In a weakened Eastern Conference, this team can feasibly sneak into the 8 seed hunt. That shouldn’t be an expectation, but it would be evidence of a successful season, because those wins would be a byproduct of the young core making each other better.

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As long as Young, Collins and Huerter prove their end-of-season production in 2019 was not a ruse, the rest of the core is bound to benefit. Everything points to this upcoming season being hard to disappoint in; all Atlanta has to do is show progress.