Atlanta Hawks

Hawks could be facing big changes after rebuild hit a snag last season

Hawks could be facing big changes after rebuild hit a snag last season

Much like the Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks were considered a team capable of contending for a playoff spot in the East in 2019-20 if everything broke their way.

In the summer of 2019, the Hawks added a pair of top 10 lottery picks in DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish to their young stars, Trae Young and John Collins, and many analysts predicted a double-digit increase over their win total from 2018-19.

But just five games into the season, Collins was hit with a 25 game suspension for violating the terms of the league’s drug policy, and the Hawks sank to the bottom of the conference standings. Atlanta did show some improvement after Collins returned, but they still owned the fourth-worst record in the NBA at 20-47 when the regular season was suspended. 

Player Development

Collins’ suspension was the biggest factor in the Hawks’ disappointing season, but the coaching staff didn’t get anywhere near the production they expected from Hunter and Reddish in their rookie seasons. Hunter started 62 of the 63 games he played in, averaging 12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds. But after leading Virginia to the national title in 2019, the rook didn’t shoot the ball as well as the Hawks expected, converting just 41% of his attempts from the field and 35.5% from 3 point range.

Reddish was even worse, falling out of the rotation at times because of his erratic play. The former Duke star shot just 38.4% from the field and 33.2% from long distance, though he did play better later in the season, averaging 16.4 points over his last 10 games and shooting 50% from the field (40% on 3s).

Young was an All-Star starter in his second NBA season, ranking among the league leaders in points and assists with averages of 29.6 and 9.3 respectively. Even while being forced to take so many difficult shots against double-teaming defenses, Young’s shooting percentages of 43.7 from the field and 36.1 on 3s were respectable.

The Hawks were also hoping second year guard Kevin Huerter would make a jump, but his development was slowed by injuries. Huerter started 48 of the 56 games he played, averaging 12.2 points per game, but he only shot 41.3% from the field. 

Offseason Decisions

The Hawks made a couple of trades before the deadline to try and shake up their underachieving roster. The biggest one netted shot-blocking, rim-running center Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets in a multi-team deal, and even though he never got a chance to play a game this season with the Hawks because of a foot injury, Capela should be a good fit with their young perimeter players. 

The Hawks also re-acquired veteran center Dewayne Dedmon, who left the team in free agency the previous summer, and he fits the team’s style of play with his ability to knock down open 3s. The two big men should help stabilize a defense that was one of the NBA’s worst, giving up an average of 119.7 points per game. Atlanta is also excited about the potential of former Maryland big man Bruno Fernando, who played well in limited minutes during his rookie season.

The Hawks could go in a number of directions with their high lottery pick. They could pursue a new backcourt partner for Young with Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball potentially available. Or they might go for the best player on their draft board with forwards Isaac Okoro and Deni Avdija, and big men James Wiseman, Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu among the players considered possible top five picks. 

Atlanta is also projected to have approximately $49 million in cap space, giving them the ability to chase some of the bigger names available in a down year for free agents. Second-year coach Lloyd Pierce has made it clear he would like to add more veterans to the locker room to lessen the burden on Young to carry the load in just about every area. 

Outlook

Pierce made it clear he’s tired of losing, telling a selected group of reporters, including The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, in a recent Zoom interview session, “There’s going to be a major shift for our team going forward, and the focus starts with our core five and the evaluation is about each guy’s growth individually,” Pierce said. “I put it out there, and I stand behind my comments of we need to make a major jump next year.”

With Capela signed for the next three seasons, the Hawks should be a better defensive team going forward. The key will be be in the development of Hunter and Reddish, and finding a veteran or two to stabilize a young roster. Vince Carter is expected to retire, plus the Hawks aren’t likely to bring back veteran point guard Jeff Teague, so general manager Travis Schlenk will have to shop wisely with his cap space this off-season. Reserves DeAndre Bembry, Skal Labissiere and Damian Jones will all be restricted free agents. 

Having two young stars like Young and Collins to build around is a huge plus, but player development and free agent success will be the key to the Hawks possibly making a playoff run next season.

SUBSCRIBE: Apple/iPhone | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Art 19

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Former Bull and Chicago native Jabari Parker reportedly on way to Kings

jabari.jpg
USA Today

Former Bull and Chicago native Jabari Parker reportedly on way to Kings

Jabari Parker is once again on the move.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hawks and Kings have agreed on a deal that will send Parker and Alex Len to Sacramento and Dewayne Dedmon to Atlanta.

Wojnarowski later added that the Kings will throw in multiple second round picks to help facilitate the deal (yikes).

Parker signed a rather lucrative two-year, $40 million with the Bulls before the 2018-19 season (with the second year being a team option), fell out of the team's rotation in December and was subsequently dealt at the 2019 deadline in the trade that brought Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago.

Though he was enjoying something of a bounceback campaign in Atlanta — averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds per game on 50.4% shooting — Parker hasn't played since Jan. 3 with a shoulder impingement. With the trade, he joins his fourth team in the past two seasons.

And before you ask: The Bulls have already faced the Kings twice this season (splitting the series 1-1), so, at least for now, no Parker revenge matchups are imminently in store.

Also of note is that this deal ends the drawn out Dedmon saga in Sacramento. Dedmon developed a bad case of signee's remorse early on in his tenure with the Kings, publicly demanding a trade back in December after signing a three-year, $40 million last offseason. He now returns to the team he played with in 2018-19 in Atlanta and joins the newly-acquired Clint Capela in the Hawks' burgeoning center rotation.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports and tune-in to watch the NBA Trade Deadline Show on Thursday, February 6 at 1:30 p.m. CT. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Despite illness, Lauri Markkanen looks comfortable in Bulls' blowout of Hawks

Despite illness, Lauri Markkanen looks comfortable in Bulls' blowout of Hawks

The Bulls’ Saturday night 116-81 drubbing of the Atlanta Hawks featured a number of darlings. Zach LaVine had a cool 19 points and 7 rebounds, Coby White notched 18 on 8-for-11 shooting, Tomas Satoransky stuffed the stat sheet and Wendell Carter Jr. canned two 3-pointers.

First targeted by assorted media, though, was Lauri Markkanen. And with good reason: Markkanen finished with a team-high 25 points and four 3-pointers, shooting an efficient 8-for-14 from the floor in just over 21 minutes of game action. He was decisive curling around screens and finding pockets of space to catch and shoot from, and hammered home a handful of resounding dunks, to boot.

 

All of that is without mentioning, Markkanen spent last night through gametime listed as questionable with a stomach illness he described as flu-like. 

“Maybe not quite 100 percent, but to be honest, when are you 100 percent?” Markkanen quipped when asked about the ailment, which he said he spent most of the day nursing.

"He looked fine to me. If he's gonna play like that, I think he should be sick more often," Zach LaVine added.  

Nights like this are becoming less and less rare for Markkanen (though hopefully stomach bugs will). This performance brought his December scoring average up to 17.6 points per game on impressive 50.9/40.2/85.7 shooting splits — a far cry from the paltry 34.9% (28.2% from three) clip he was converting at through October and November.

“Lauri's energy has been good. He's been starting to learn how to get his shots and get to his spots,” Jim Boylen said after the game. “To his credit, he's worked really hard on his shot. He's stayed with it and he's coming around."

“Yeah, I'm more comfortable,” Markkanen said. “I kind of know where I'm gonna get my touches and shots… Just playing with the same guys in this system and obviously we work on it every day.”

But of course, neither Markkanen nor Boylen took an overly narrow view of his improved play. Markkanen finished the game with only 4 rebounds, but two of those were offensive and directly resulted in second-chance points.

“I liked the offensive rebound[s] he had, I like the cuts to the basket he gets, I like it when he runs ahead of the ball in transition,” Boylen said. “The 3s are great, but I like those plays, those effort, energy plays that help us win.”

Increasing the frequency of those types of plays will be the next step for Markkanen, which he acknowledged.

“Just trying to crash the boards, and obviously I can do a better job rebounding and pushing the ball,” Markkanen said.

But for now, an encouraging performance in a necessary win (caveats aside), will suffice. As will a much-improved month of shooting. Markkanen’s comfort is key, but he won’t get too high or too low.

“No,” Markkanen said on whether he was ready to call this one a ‘flu game.’

“Just another day at the office.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.