Just two seasons ago in 2021, the Atlanta Hawks made a head coaching change in the middle of the season when they replaced Lloyd Pierce with Nate McMillan. The Hawks went on to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals that year, coming up two wins shy of reaching the NBA Finals for what would have been the first time since 1961 when they were the St. Louis Hawks.
Flash-forward to this season and the Hawks once again found themselves in familiar territory. The organization parted ways with Nate McMillan midseason and brought in former Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder to try and get the team back to their winning ways. The only difference between 2021 and 2023, though, is the fact that Atlanta lost in the first round of the playoffs this year.
The Hawks added Dejounte Murray this past offseason, creating an All-Star backcourt alongside Trae Young. With key talents around them like John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Clint Capela and others, the vision laid out at the start of the 2022-23 season was clear: Make noise in the conference and prove that making the Eastern Conference Finals was not a fluke.
That did not happen and this team underachieved their expectations by a wide margin. Entering the offseason following a very disheartening 41-41 season, the Hawks have many questions to address, starting from the very top and tricking down to what their roster will look like.
A lot has changed internally for the Atlanta Hawks. Aside from Snyder taking the reins from McMillan on the sideline, the team’s president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk surprisingly stepped down from his position in December and moved into a special advisor position with the team. General manager Landry Fields is now overseeing basketball operations and has already begun making the changes he sees fit. While they did end up making some adjustments to their roster at the trade deadline with the additions of Saddiq Bey, Bruno Fernando and Garrison Mathews, a lot of noise was made about the Hawks around this time in regards to if Fields and the front office would look to take the team in a new direction. This led to questions being asked about Trae Young’s future with Atlanta.
Trae Young’s relationship with Quin Snyder
A two-time All-Star and All-NBA performer a season ago, Young had one of the best seasons of his career, averaging a career-high 10.2 assists per game and recording 40 double-doubles in 72 games. Young’s overall production is exactly what the Hawks need from their star moving forward, but the future is still very uncertain for this franchise. Despite rumors surrounding a potential trade involving the star, Trae Young has built a strong relationship with head coach Quin Snyder in their limited time together and believes in what lies ahead of him.
“Quin is the future,” Young said after the team was eliminated from the playoffs last month, per HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. “I believe with him here, this city is going to win a championship, and it’s just about bringing in the right pieces for him… I think he’s going to be great for us and I am excited about the future with him.”
Young has remained loyal to the Hawks after signing a five-year, $215 million max contract in 2022, and he is determined to win in Atlanta despite notions that he could request a trade in the offseason, league sources told ClutchPoints. There is always a cause for doubt after unsuccessful seasons, but Young, Snyder and the new front office do appear to be on the same page about things heading into the summer. Adjustments need to be made and all parties recognize this, which is why there is a clearer understanding now than there was in the middle of the season when things were looking bleak for the Hawks.
Will John Collins finally be traded?
Internal frustrations and cracks in the locker room still exist, though, which is why the Hawks’ roster will very likely undergo some roster changes in the near future. Finding his name on the trade block an offseason ago, John Collins continues to be discussed as a player who could be on the move. Collins’ overall production and minutes declined this season, and according to league sources, he continues to have frustrations about where he fits into the organization’s big picture. Still just 25 years old and being a former first-round pick, Collins possesses talent that quite a few teams around the league could immediately utilize as a key contributor in their starting lineup.
Trade talks surrounding Collins will gain traction again as the 2023 NBA Draft in June inches closer. Atlanta is locked into the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft, giving them the ability to possibly create a lucrative trade package to acquire another impactful, third core player to pair with Young and Murray. The Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers have expressed interest in the Hawks forward in the past and could once again be at the forefront of trade talks for him this offseason. The key in a trade involving John Collins thought is bringing back “win-now” talent to elevate the team.
Improving defensively is a must for the Hawks, as they ranked 22nd in the league this season in defensive rating and 26th in opponent’s points per game. One point of emphasis for this team entering the offseason will be finding ways to improve on this side of the floor, but none of those three teams may be able to supply Atlanta with an impactful perimeter defender. Shooters on bigger contracts come to mind when evaluating the Nets, Mavericks and Pacers, as Joe Harris, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Buddy Hield are all plausible assets that could be leveraged by their teams in a possible John Collins trade offer.
This is not saying that the Hawks want or would want any of those three players either.
Atlanta does not necessarily want to give up on Collins, as they signed him to a five-year, $125 million deal in 2021 with the intent of having him in their core for years to come alongside Young, but sources say many in the organization have been impressed with second-year forward Jalen Johnson. After a developmental rookie year, Johnson took a step forward this season despite the team’s overall struggles. With the potential he has defensively given his long wingspan and from what the Hawks have seen with him running in transition as a potential power forward option, Johnson has suddenly made Collins somewhat expendable for the right price. Heading into his third season in the league, Johnson will be a focal point for the Hawks to prioritize in their development this offseason.
Hawks’ roster is getting expensive
Aside from John Collins’ future in Atlanta, Dejounte Murray will be entering the final year of his contract this offseason. Murray potentially leaving after they gave up multiple first-round picks to acquire him is certainly not an ideal situation for the Hawks, nor a situation they want to face, hence why there is a lot of belief from rival teams that an extension is on the horizon for the two-way guard.
Bogdan Bogdanovic’s situation is another interesting topic to discuss from a numbers perspective, as the Hawks extended the 30-year-old guard in March on a new four-year, $68 million deal. It appears that Bogdanovic will continue to serve as the team’s sixth man for many years to come, especially after Landry Fields’ comments on the extension.
“Bogi brings so many of the qualities we are looking for in a Hawks player. In addition to his elite shooting ability, he has the versatility to thrive as a starter or sixth man, and a competitiveness that is invaluable to our team and culture,” Fields said. “We are excited that he will remain a key part of our team going forward.”
Between the contracts of Young, Murray, Collins and Bogdanovic, the Hawks will be paying around $120 million for next season. If you include both Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter, all of a sudden the team’s payroll skyrockets to over $160 million. With the new collective bargaining agreement coming into play soon as well, Atlanta will not be able to keep everyone on their current roster without major tax penalties being handed down. How teams react to the new CBA and their willingness to make trades in the offseason will be very interesting. Much like this past offseason with teams waiting for the first domino to fall with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert being traded, we should expect much of the same this upcoming summer.
Maybe the Hawks do keep everyone around and they try to make the adjustments needed with Quin Snyder having a full offseason to implement his system, but the sense around the league right now is that some kind of roster change is coming.
There is certainly talent on this roster and the Hawks are not in a terrible position by any means. They have young building blocks on their roster who should get expanded roles heading into the 2023-24 season. They are going to be a much-improved team at the start of next season compared to how things ended in the playoffs for them this year. A clearer picture of what the future holds for Atlanta will be painted in the offseason based on the decisions Fields and the front office make.
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