The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 22. To get you ready for the year to come, we'll be dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, the Atlanta Hawks take the spotlight.
2019-20 season record
20-47, 14th in the Eastern Conference
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Onyeka Okongwu, No. 6 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Skylar Mays, No. 50 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Nathan Knight, Undrafted free agent (two-way)
Tony Snell, Trade
Kris Dunn, Free agency
Danilo Gallinari, Free agency
Rajon Rondo, Free agency
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Free Agency
Vince Carter, Retirement
Dewayne Dedmon, Trade
DeAndre' Bembry, Free agency
Jeff Teague, Free agency
|PG||Trae Young||Rajon Rondo||Kris Dunn|
|SG||Bogdan Bogdanovic||Kevin Huerter||Tony Snell|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||De'Andre Hunter||Cam Reddish|
|PF||John Collins||Bruno Fernando|
|C||Clint Capela||Onyeka Okongwu||Nathan Knight|
3 key storylines
A superstar leap for Trae?
In just two short seasons, Trae Young has shown why the Hawks motioned to acquire him on draft night in 2018.
After earning All-Rookie selections in his first season, Young made the All-Star leap in Year 2, finishing the season with averages of 29.6 points and 9.3 assists over 60 games, good for fourth and second in the league, respectively.
Now, ahead of Year 3, the 22-year-old is on the cusp of superstardom.
To be clear, superstar status isn't easy to attain. This past year, we witnessed the likes of Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum emerge into that stratosphere, doing so with their consistency on big stages, putting forth performances that placed them within the top 10 of NBA.com's player rankings.
Is that a realistic next step for Young?
Considering that he was already considered one of the league's top 24 talents in being selected to the All-Star stage, Young's next step is to clearly establish himself as a top-five point guard in the league. Based on the premise that Doncic and LeBron James are point guards, in addition to Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry and Russell Westbrook, Young's still got his work cut out for him.
During the Hawks' extended offseason, Young told Mark Medina of USA Today that his main goal this year is "doing whatever I need to do to get us over the top and get into the playoffs." While Young has thrived as a shooter and a passer, the ongoing knock on his game is his ability to contribute on the defensive end, to which he told Medina he is working on his conditioning in order to improve.
Young doesn't need to become an All-Defensive Team candidate to enter superstar territory but a marked improvement would lead Atlanta to more wins. More wins increase the likelihood of Young playing on the bigger stage, which, as we learn year after year, is where superstars are born.
The prospect of another tangible leap from Young should have Hawks fans very excited.
What to expect from the new additions
While it has a number of the same core pieces, this Hawks team will look much different than It did to close the 2019-20 season.
In addition to Clint Capela, who did not play a game with the team after being acquired near the trade deadline, the team has added a rookie big man in Onyeka Okongwu as well as free agents Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Safe to say that Atlanta has made the most of the cap room it entered the offseason with, and then some.
Capela, 26, has posted averages of 14.9 points and 12.2 rebounds on 64.5% shooting over the last three seasons (180 games). In Atlanta, he has an opportunity to form a scary lob duo with Young, who already has a terrifying lob target in the high-flying John Collins.
Young's ability to find Capela as a roll man is something NBA.com's Scott Rafferty highlighted back when Atlanta initially acquired the big man.
Clint Capela next to Trae Young is going to be a lot of fun. Efficiency is down slightly this season, but Capela has been one of the league's better rollers and cutters the last few seasons.- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) February 5, 2020
Going to be a lot of this going on in Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/N5kYwLC9r2
Gallinari is coming off of a season in which he averaged 18.7 points while shooting 40.5% from deep and Rondo, the other big-time veteran addition, played an integral role in the Lakers title run. Dunn is an elite on-ball defender and Okongwu has the potential to be an elite rim protector while he's still raw offensively.
Bogdanovic provides headiness and clutch scoring as a veteran that is wise beyond his years, fulfilling a major need.
What will be interesting to see is how these new additions fit within a roster that already features plenty of wing talent in Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. On the interior, there's Collins, who is eligible to sign an extension and averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds last season.
On paper, this is the most talented Hawks team in years, one that has made offseason moves with the clear goal of ending a playoff drought.
A breakout year for Reddish?
In Young (29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game) and Collins (21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game), Atlanta has one of the most exciting young 1-2 punches that the league has to offer.
With the 1-2 punch in place, the question is: Who will be No. 3? One of Bogdanovic or Gallinari would seem to be the logical answer - and one of the two likely will be this upcoming season - but you shouldn't lose sight of the talented wings that the Hawks have acquired over the past few drafts.
While both Huerter and Hunter showed consistency throughout last season, it's Reddish that could surprise many by making a leap and emerging as Atlanta's third star of the future.
Some might have given up on the 21-year-old after he averaged 10.5 points per game while shooting 38.4% from the field and 33.2% from deep in his rookie campaign but those numbers don't come close to telling the full story.
Reddish entered the 2019-20 season coming off of an offseason core muscle surgery and, judging by his rough start to the season, it was an operation that took time to recover from. The numbers illustrate the story very clearly:
|First 34 games||25.7||.322||.256||.765||3.9||1.6||8.0|
|Final 23 games||28.3||.458||.419||.845||3.5||1.4||14.3|
Reddish's strong finish to the season has generated some buzz, and rightly so. The 6-foot-8 forward has shown that he's got the tools to be an impactful player in this league. With the offseason additions Atlanta has made, there's less pressure on Reddish to figure it all out this upcoming season.
While the playmaking of Young and Rondo will help make the game easier for him, the other wing options on the Hawks roster mean defences can't truly key in on him, as they are all scoring threats.
Don't be surprised if Reddish becomes a sixth starter that wreaks havoc on the defences of second units, which could be a sign of things to come down the line in his career.
5 games to watch
Memphis Grizzlies, Dec. 26, 2020
Young and Collins vs. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Two of the most exciting young duos in the league are sure to provide plenty of highlights as they go head-to-head.
Charlotte Hornets, Jan. 6, 2021
These two divisional opponents have undergone transformative offseasons. We'll get our first look at what should be a very entertaining point guard matchup between Young and LaMelo Ball.
Dallas Mavericks, Feb. 3, 2021
Right or wrong, Young and Luka Doncic will forever be linked to one another. As it features two of the league's brightest young stars, you always have to tune in to at least one of two meetings between the Hawks and Mavs.
Orlando Magic, Mar. 3, 2021
The Magic were one of the final playoff teams in the East last season and are likely to be in contention with the Hawks for a playoff spot again this season. There will definitely be a little extra in each matchup between these teams this upcoming season.
Golden State Warriors, Date: TBD (Second half of season)
Since his days at the University of Oklahoma and even before, Young has been compared to Stephen Curry. How quickly an idol can become a rival. Now that Young looks to establish himself among the upper echelon of point guards in the league, his matchups with Curry will be a great measuring stick.
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