Atlanta Hawks

Offseason Outlook: What's next for the Atlanta Hawks?

The Atlanta Hawks' magical postseason run has come to an end with a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

It was a run that not many could have predicted, with the Hawks putting an end to a four-year postseason drought by earning the East's No. 5 seed. Once the playoffs rolled around, no moment was too big for Atlanta, which won six road games, including Game 1 of each round, as well as closeout Game 5 of the opening round and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With a young roster, this run is only the beginning for the Hawks. Now, the focus shifts to an offseason in which a few key decisions are to be made.

The 2021 NBA Draft

Picks: No. 20, No. 48 (via SAC)

Prospects to target: Cameron Thomas (LSU), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova)

The Hawks own the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft.

In the first mock draft from NBA.com's Draft expert Kyle Irving, the prolific Cameron Thomas from LSU is tabbed as the Hawks' selection at 20. Thomas, a 6-foot-4 guard that averaged 23.0 points per game during his freshman campaign with the Tigers, would bring an immediate scoring punch to Atlanta's second unit.

The depth of this Hawks roster is scary, given the number of players it has that are capable of going for 20 points on any given night. Thomas, who fits that mould, could also potentially slide in to fill a scoring void that a potential departure of Williams would leave.

With the potential departure of Collins via free agency, the Hawks could also target a player capable of playing the stretch-four role. Villanova's Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a player that Irving has getting selected in the late 20s, and with player comparisons to Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr., could be the type of player Atlanta targets in the event that negotiations with Collins go sour.

Upcoming free agents

The Hawks were very active in bringing in talent via free agency last offseason, but this offseason the focus will shift to retaining the players that are already on the roster.

Priority No. 1 is going to be John Collins.

After reportedly turning down a contract extension worth north of $90 million, the 23-year-old enters the offseason as one of the biggest free agents on the market. This past season, Collins posted averages of 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds on .556/.399/.833 shooting splits and while his postseason run had some ups and downs, he proved to be a key component of this team by making big plays at big moments.

Collins is a restricted free agent, meaning Atlanta has the option to match any offer sheet he was to sign with another team, but should a team gives Collins more than the Hawks are willing to pay, they could see a key component of their future move on.

A big factor in it all is Trae Young, who, in entering his fourth NBA season is eligible for a contract extension. After crossing into superstar territory during the 20201 playoffs, Young is undoubtedly set to receive a maximum contract extension from the Hawks.

Lou Williams is an unrestricted free agent. While he'll be 35 next season, Williams proved to be a key cog for the team throughout its playoff run.

Veterans Tony Snell and Solomon Hill are also unrestricted free agents, Brandon Goodwin and two-way players Skylar Mays and Nathan Knight are unrestricted free agents and Kris Dunn has a player option worth $5.0 million for the 2021-22 season that he will almost certainly pick up after an injury-riddled 2020-21.

Hawks set to be free agents (2021)
Unrestricted Free Agent(s) Restricted Free Agent(s) Player Option(s)
Tony Snell John Collins Kris Dunn
Lou Williams Brandon Goodwin
Solomon Hill Skylar Mays
Nathan Knight

According to RealGM's Keith Smith, the maximum amount of cap space the Hawks can create this offseason is $21.1 million.

Burning questions

So… what happens with John Collins?

Let's take an even closer look at the Collins situation.

Based on the reports that he is in search of something closer to a maximum contract, the Hawks could find themselves in a position where they sign Collins and Young to contracts worth over $200 million. Is that even plausible? What are the alternatives?

Atlanta has a full frontcourt, but each player within does something a little different. There's Collins, who fits the bill of an athletic stretch big that is still coming into his own. Clint Capela is one of the league's best rebounders and an excellent roll partner and lob target for Young, Onyeka Okongwu is developing into a very similar threat with great defensive instincts and Danilo Gallinari can knock down jumpers and do some creating for himself, both on the block and the perimeter.

It's been the perfect complement of big men.

As one of the most important parts of this franchise's future, you can't just replace Collins' production with a rookie. Still, if the number is too high, could there be a circumstance in which the Hawks look to negotiate a trade to receive value in return? Do they look to move on from someone else on the roster to free up space for Collins?

Collins has played himself into a nice payday, which just might complicate matters for the Hawks franchise, to say the least.

One key stat

Young assisted Collins (141) and Capela (136) a combined 277 times during the 2020-21 regular season, each combination ranking in the top five in the league.

No other assist-man appeared in the top five more than once.

Highest assist combinations, 2020-21 regular season (PBP Stats)
Rank Assist Player Scorer Assists
1 Draymond Green Stephen Curry 194
2 Chris Paul Deandre Ayton 143
3 Trae Young John Collins 141
4 Russell Westbrook Bradley Beal 139
5 Trae Young Clint Capela 136

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