Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What to expect from the Atlanta Hawks this season

Some quick thoughts about the Atlanta Hawks on Opening Night for the 2018-19 schedule:

1. This Atlanta Hawks team will not be as bad as some experts are pretending they will be.

Some of the national talking heads have figured it out, but there are a lot that see the evaporation of known commodities from the Hawks rotation plus the trade of Luka Doncic for Trae Young and a future #1 as signs that the team is going to be horrible.

However, those that have watched this team since it's bumpy opening act in Utah this summer can see that the offense is all the way live, and Lloyd Pierce has a plan and the team is executing. A rudderless ship is the most likely to be a disaster, record-wise, in the NBA, and that is not the Atlanta Hawks.

So while the team is still locked in for lottery goodness next offseason, the worst record in the league, a.k.a. The Full Oh-Four, will be avoided.

2. That defense, though, will be rough.

I had speculated, as the team piled one defensive liability upon another during the offseason, that this defense had the potential to be all-time bad.

I am walking that back somewhat upon reflection. What I mean today is that the defense has a chance to be epic in terms of points per game given up, likely last in the league in that category.

Pierce is a noted defensive expert, so there will be some defensive concepts that will be taught and bought into, to be sure. However, the pace at which this team wants to play, combined with the established defensive ratings the roster has, plus the general inexperience that a lot of the minutes will be consumed, means that points will be scored against, oh yes, there will be points.

3. Still going to be fun to watch.

All of that is to say this: This team will score some points and it will give up a lot of points, which will make them the darling of the daily fantasy sports players everywhere.

More points = more fun, or something like that. Being a bad team that can't score the basketball is hard to watch. Being a bad (record-wise) team that can score the ball is much more palatable.

4. Trae Young will alter the draft day trade narrative.

Not to bury the lede too much in this preview, but yes, there is plenty to say about Trae Young.

Before the draft, I felt that the lack of defense I saw at Oklahoma was going to prevent Young from assuming a full starters' portion of the minutes, rendering him a sixth man type that would be able to come off the bench and provide tons o' offense, featuring his shooting and passing as the chosen weapons of mass destruction.

After the summer and preseason, you can see the work that Pierce has put into Trae and it is more easy to see a 30-32 minute role for Young now.

What we have also seen is that the elite playmaker skills are translating, so far, to the NBA, which is essential for making Travis Schlenk's draft day gambit work. Sure, Young can knock down 30 footers and drive oohs and ahhs from the crowd, but it will be the ability to make John Collins, Taurean Prince, et al 10-15% better and more efficient that will make things go for the Hawks with Trae at the point.

I believe he will do this well enough. Also, his style of play and swagger lends itself to adoration of the Hawks faithful and the marriage of his game style, the pace of play the Hawks want to go with and the fans coming to the arena is darn near perfect.

It is this result that I believe will change the national narrative about the deal from a FAIL by the Hawks to a more win-win narrative that still favors Dallas (assuming Luka plays as we all believe he will), but more of a wait and see with that second pick, the style factor, etc.

With Young so likeable as a leader, this adds to the momentum to alter that narrative.

5. The final result will be tied to Team Health.

Obviously, an injury to Young, more so than anybody else on this team, will influence the final grade for this team in 2019. If Young is able to maintain for 78-82 games, then we will see his growth and all the points I have just made is fully colored and glorious.

However, if Young misses large amounts of time, it is hard to imagine feeling like this season reached its potential.

To a lesser degree, the same is said for Collins, Prince, Huerter, and everyone else that the team is counting on to use these minutes as time vitamins for future benefit to the team. Any amounts of lost time will hurt that growth and, also, the enjoyment of this rebuilding season.

6. The Hawks will still have a top five pick. 

In the end, I believe the Hawks will lose enough to retain a top five pick of their own in the 2019 NBA Draft, which is a real good thing for a franchise that needs more talent and has the potential of three first rounders again in that draft.

7. We will enjoy Vince Carter as our own for one glorious season.

The Hawks do seem to find a way of harboring all-time greats at the end of their careers, from Moses Malone to Tracy McGrady. I am especially happy to have Carter here, having interviewed him over the years and watched him crush the good guys over and over again, it will be good to see and hear him describe this season from the inside.

8. The franchise will be seen in a better light by the end of the year.

From the new arena look, to the smart PR that is happening with the team, to the on the court product, this is the year that the national eyes see the Hawks as changing the culture, a process that started with the hiring of Steve Koonin and now continues through the full Tony Ressler fingerprint.

They have a plan. They are not rudderless. Now, the team will begin its trek down this road chosen, a road of high scoring basketball and a fan friendly venue.

I am looking forward to it -- Let's Go Hawks!

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