Hawks

Hawks Running Out of Big Moves to Make

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The Atlanta Hawks just completed the most impressively mid season in the NBA.

As recorded by many NBA fans and analysts, the Hawks went 33 consecutive games within one game of or at .500. This bested the past record of 24 games around .500.

After their trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, the Hawks underperformed in 2022 by falling to the eighth seed and losing in the first round. This led the front office to trade for San Antonio Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray as a win-now move that would mask their deficiencies. After some other moves — like the Huerter trade — Atlanta was ready to contend.

The offseason proved to be a failure. Midseason struggles led to Quin Snyder replacing Nate McMillan as head coach and the Hawks got the seventh seed through the Play-In Tournament. The team went on to fall to Boston in six games. Even with a fun and competitive series, this marked the end to yet another disappointing season.

This is not to say that there were not any positive takeaways from the matchup. De’Andre Hunter had a few moments, as did some lineups where Murray was the main ball-handler. More interestingly, Trae Young also had some amazing performances to extend the series right before an offseason where his name might be in rumors. That said, it can not be enough to satisfy the franchise.

Atlanta has failed to capitalize on their Conference Finals appearance and early success. Poor decisions and overconfidence have been the downfall of a nucleus that showed promise. Now, the Hawks go into a potentially franchise-altering offseason where some hard decisions must be made, starting with Trae Young.

Murky Future

The Hawks have to make some changes if they wish to join the East’s top four. What exactly those changes are remains to be seen, however.

After shaking up their front office earlier this year, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that GM Landry Fields and his team have the green light from ownership to do what they want to. This opens the door for the team to move anyone, including their franchise player. Jared Greenberg reported for TNT that the front office told Young the rumors are not true at the moment, but these comments still leave the door open.

After changing their head coach, trading for an All-Star running mate, and making trades around the edges, there is no clear direction for the Hawks other than Young. His performance against Boston makes it difficult to trade him, too. He clearly proved he can carry his weight on the team and is the star they need.

Another option — for what feels like the tenth year in a row — John Collins might be an option to trade. Some of their other pieces could be of interest in the trade market, but Atlanta is limited in terms of assets that can lead to real difference makers.

Given that this will be Fields’ first offseason in charge, big shakeups should be expected. It is common for new front offices to leave their stamp on the roster. Trading Young would definitely be a shakeup and would allow the club to switch directions going forward. The right package for Atlanta might allow them to start a rebuild, or even just retool with Murray as their point guard and a better-fitting team.

However, there are not many realistic targets that will help lead Atlanta into contention, and Young is probably going to start next season on the roster. Fans might have to prepare for the possibility that the franchise already completed their big offseason addition.

Biggest change already made?

Head coach Quin Snyder is one of the more well-respected coaches in the league. After beating the Miami Heat in the play-in game, Spoelstra credited him with creating an identity for the team that made them destroy the rebound battle.

Moreover, Snyder got his players to commit on defense against Boston. Their surprising effort on this end allowed them to be competitive all the way to the end.

Hiring Snyder received praise at the moment, and he might prove to be the biggest addition the team makes this offseason.

Snyder has only been given 22 regular-season games to establish his system in Atlanta. Despite a respectable .500 record (of course), Snyder did not have enough time to truly mold his roster. His time to properly test out rotations and schemes will come this summer.

Fans should be exited about the potential their team could have next season with this training camp. Having a good coach implement his style on the roster will upgrade any team, after all. The problem for fans is they will expect more than just going to next season with new schemes.

The aforementioned Kevin O’Connor report promises a busy offseason for the Hawks. Fans who read into it might expect big changes in the roster, and will probably be disappointed.

A lack of obvious targets and pieces will limit Atlanta’s work this free agency and draft day. The result: the franchise will have to settle for running back a similar roster with Snyder’s new system. Not to disrespect Snyder, but he cannot be considered a savior for the Hawks.

Destined for more of the same

The Eastern Conference is showing no signs of regression. The Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers should run back their championship-contending teams. The young Cleveland Cavaliers will also be among the leaders in the conference. Taking a top four spot will not be easy for the Hawks.

Even without considering teams with upside — like the Pacers or Magic — or potential bounce-back seasons — from the Heat or Raptors — the Hawks will have their work cut out for them.

The list did not even include playoff teams like the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets, and things were already looking grim for Atlanta’s future.

As previously expressed, there is some real potential for change in the roster. Maybe Young gets traded, or the Hawks luck into a big Collins trade. However, the likelier outcome is an underwhelming offseason where coach Snyder has time to make the team his own.

In a league that is more competitive every year, the Hawks don’t have many avenues for improvement. The team might see itself as a contender, but the roster and front office don’t necessarily reflect that.

Two disappointing seasons later, Atlanta is nowhere closer to surpassing the heights they reached in 2021. Sadly for the franchise and fans, this offseason will probably not feature a big shakeup, marking it another season where Atlanta will probably have to fight to even enter the playoffs and lose out in the first round.

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About Jesús Feliciano-Batista

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