Fact or Fiction: Assessing the Atlanta Hawks’ Ceiling After the Eastern Conference Finals | NBA.com France


The Atlanta Hawks shocked the NBA world last season, making an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

With just two wins before reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history since moving to Atlanta, the Hawks will face high expectations heading into the 2021-22 season.

To get a feel for those expectations, our NBA.com staff played a game of “Fact or Fiction” to discuss what to expect from the Hawks this coming year.

Last year’s conference finals race was a fluke

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Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Fiction. The Hawks have suffered various injuries to key players all last season and have always found a way to stay afloat in the hotly contested East. Their run to the conference finals was the result of everyone being healthy at the right time, with All-Star-level production from star guard Trae Young taking his game to another stratosphere during the playoffs. playoffs.

You could argue that Atlanta was the deepest team in the NBA last season, with a legitimate eight to nine guy depth, even in the playoffs when you typically shorten your rotation. They had nine different double-digit average players and it shone when it mattered most, with different players stepping up around Young in every playoff game. This kind of firepower was hard to contain.

Kane Pitman (@KanePitman): Fiction. To call it a fluke would be a little too disrespectful for mine. However, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that they had a friendly route to the conference finals when you consider the Philadelphia 76ers imploding.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Hawks’ run was the fearlessness with which they played in the big moments, which projects well into the future. Road Game 7 against the Sixers and Road Game 1 in Milwaukee were big wins in a really enjoyable race.

Gilbert McGregor (@ GMcGregor21): Fiction. To say the Hawks’ run was a fluke would grossly understate what they managed to do in the playoffs.

For starters, Atlanta clearly surpassed the New York Knicks, who they managed to eliminate in five games despite not having home court advantage. I understand the Sixers’ flaws, but the Hawks were seen as major underdogs and overcame De’Andre Hunter’s absence to take out the No. 1 seed in the East.

Are there things that rocked Atlanta? Absoutely. But given the number of comebacks they’ve staged and the adversity they’ve overcome, the Hawks put on a legitimate run.

Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Fiction. That makes the four of us. After Nate McMillan took over midway through the season, the Hawks looked like a different team, posting a 27-11 record the rest of the way and more importantly, there was a real sense of clarity around the role of each before the playoffs.

Beating the Knicks wasn’t quite a surprise, maybe the way they did it caught people off guard. And while the 76ers were rightly the favorites to win this series, the confidence and momentum the Hawks have gained in this series made an upset look more likely in every game.

Hawks are title contenders this year

Irving: Made. Again, this team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and it hasn’t made it worse this offseason. They took care of their biggest box to check, which was to re-sign rising star striker John Collins. Their entire core of Young, Collins, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter and Lou Williams are back. Cam Reddish and Onyeka Okongwu are a bit more experienced. They brought new pieces that can make an impact like Delon Wright. I think rookie forward Jalen Johnson can shock people by how quickly he can make an impact.

This Hawks team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pitman: Fiction. I think it’s fair to assume that Atlanta will be in the mix for home advantage in the first round, but calling them a title contender is premature.

As Kyle points out, the Hawks are deep, but is there a real second star in the field? We know what Young can do, he delivered on the big stage last season but one or two of the young cores are going to have to take a big step for the Hawks to threaten Brooklyn and Milwaukee out of the East.

A playoff lockdown, but not yet a title contender.

McGregor: Fiction. I’m pretty high up on the Hawks and think they have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but they’re still young and in the Eastern Conference pecking order, they’re the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and everybody.

Atlanta might show me something that would change my mind, but I think it’s a year or two away from the title fight, provided it keeps moving in the right direction.

Kidane: Fiction. The Hawks are bringing back the same core again this season, but it will be a tall order to find their way out of the Eastern Conference this season.

The Nets are healthy and improved, the Bucks are the defending champions for a reason, and the Miami Heat have taken a big leap forward in the offseason. As it stands, the Hawks could finish as well as third or fourth in the East, but in playoff time, the experience of these three teams makes it difficult to see the Hawks come out of the East. .

Trae Young to be a candidate for the All-NBA team

Irving: Done. It sounds crazy to say that Young didn’t even make the All-Star squad last year – which was a snub, by the way – but I don’t see why he can’t make a squad. All-NBA this year. It is extremely difficult to carve out a place as a goaltender, but if Young plays the way he did in the playoffs and the Hawks remain among the best teams in the Eastern Conference, it will be impossible to do so. ignore for an All-NBA selection. I guess Atlanta must finish with a top three or four in the East, though.

Pitman: Done. Of course, he will be a candidate. The Hawks should aim for 50 wins and Young will produce his usual explosive score with regularity.

Remember, however, that even Devin Booker missed last season. With Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Chris Paul competing, there are only a limited number of spots available.

McGregor: Made. However, he will have his work cut out for him.

In theory, Young would just have to be one of the top six goalies in the league to do it, but given the names Kane listed above, it’s a lot easier said than done. For what it’s worth, we’ve ranked each of those seven guards above Young in our preseason ranking of the NBA’s top 30 players, so Young would have to skip a few to get the nod. And honestly, as a 23-year-old entering his fourth season, he’s been good company. The jump is coming.

Kidane: Done. He will definitely be in the mix, but the six point guard calculations have seen extremely talented players miss in the past.

That said, Young’s ability to create an offense for both himself and his teammates now translates into a basketball victory, which will make it difficult for voters to ignore. He is already one of the best offensive players in the league and last season he was the only NBA player to average at least 25 points and nine assists, with 9.4 dimes per game behind James Harden. and Russell Westbrook.

If he can take his game up a notch and the Hawks win 50 games, it will be hard to let him out.

John Collins is the Hawks’ second most important player

Irving: Done. As much as I want to go up the fence with this one and say that he and Capela are equal in value for the team, that’s not the point of this drill. As good as Capela is – and he’s probably the best rebounder in the NBA – I still think Collins is more important. He’s the most versatile defender, he’s a more versatile pick-and-roll threat, and he helps space the floor for Young with his 3-point shooting ability when not involved in the game. When Collins is at its best, Atlanta’s cap is considerably higher.

Pitman: Done. He should probably be based on the $ 125 million contract he just signed. He can shoot the 3, finish around the basket and hit the glass. Production was down a bit last season but its efficiency has remained around the same level. At times he probably felt like the sudden depth of the roster hurt his own individual play, but he should be better prepared as we approach season two with the squad. I mentioned earlier that the Hawks really need a second star to emerge to take the next step. Maybe it’s Collins?

McGregor: Done. When I think back to the Atlanta playoffs, I feel like the team’s best performances came on the nights Collins was the team’s second best player.

It sounds like an arbitrary fact, but in 10 playoff games in 2021, the Hawks were 7-0 when Collins sank at least a triple and 0-3 when he failed to connect in depth. . This statistic alone is a testament to the importance of his versatility as a tall, stretchy man who is also an ideal lob partner for Young and, as Kyle mentioned above, versatile in the pick-and-roll.

For Atlanta, the most exciting part would have to be that Collins has room to become an even more complete player.

Kidane: Done. Collins is supposed to be that guy and last season he really played that part in the biggest moments. Whether it’s a convenient 3-point or a big defensive play, the Hawks seem out of control when Young and Collins are on fire.

We know how important Clint Capela is to the Hawks’ success, but Collins gives them so much more variety on the offensive end and when the defenses focus on slowing him down, it allows their perimeter players in Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter and Young to create even easier looks from the outside.

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