Joseph Dycus: At the start of the NBA preseason, will the Hawks benefit from their player spending?

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(This is the third part of a three-part series featuring the Atlanta Hawks. In the final installment, we’ll take a look at returning players and the Hawks’ overall place in the conference)

After it rained in November, will the Hawks be able to take advantage of this investment in the spring? After a promising draft and one of the most prolific spending in team history, the Atlanta Hawks look set to return to the playoffs for the first time since April 2017.

Even though the Hawks spent like Jeff Bezos, the main reason for optimism was already on the list. Trae Young appears to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory, and if he takes another step in his already rapid development, the third-year guard should make the leap to “NBA’s top playmaker” status. Statistically, he might not be averaging 29 and 9 anymore, but that shouldn’t make fans believe that Young has taken a step back.

Because newcomer Bogdan Bogdanovic is an accomplished combo guard and Rajon Rondo is a prolific passer, it is hoped that Young will be asked to carry less playing load. Instead of being forced to dominate the ball and force contested shots. , Trae might finally be able to play off the ball. He should have the chance to get off screens and catch and shoot preoccupied defenses, a la Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.

“I’m excited like everyone else. We’ve added a lot of guys with new talent who can bring a lot of new things to the game, and it will be fun to learn and figure out where they like the ball best, ”Young said at a press conference. early in the month.

Aside from Trae Young’s likely rise to the ranks of true elite guards, Atlanta is also banking on the further development of Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter. Even though Hunter was the top draft pick last season (4th overall) and was the most prolific goalscorer (12.3), many seem to believe Cam Reddish has the highest cap of any member in the league. ‘team. After a dismal start to fall 2019, Reddish was starting to find his rhythm before COVID shut down the league (0.445 from the field and 0.397 from three after the New Year).

But its raw numbers and poor bounce and assist stats don’t tell the whole story. Reddish was the Hawks’ top stopper on the perimeter during his rookie season (granted, that wasn’t a high bar to cross) and was comfortable with the ball handling as a secondary player. While Rondo, Bogdanovic and Gallinari may cut down on his time with the ball, there is no reason to believe that Reddish will be completely excluded from ball handling duties this year.

“I feel like I’ve improved in all aspects. Mentally I feel more comfortable and confident going to the basket, and defensively nothing has changed, ”said Reddish. “During the first practice, guys like Rondo and Gallinari spoke up and expressed their opinion. This is what we want and what we need, and so those guys who keep doing it will be important to us.

“At first the three point line seemed deep, but I felt more comfortable with it doing shooting reps during this break. It was nine months, and I think in general I feel more comfortable with all of basketball.

Finally, John Collins could be as prolific and effective a goalscorer as any striker in the NBA, and Onyeka Okongwu may be the new fan favorite, but Clint Capela is hands down the best big man the Hawks have adapted. since Al Horford’s heyday in the mid-2010s. Having been unable to play after last year’s trade, a healthy Capela could be a transformative play for Atlanta.

In his last healthy season of 2018-19, Capela ripped off 13 rebounds per game and blocked 1.5 shots per game, numbers the Hawks have not seen from center position since Dikembe Mutombo patrolled the painting. His ability to score 15 points per game through considerable effort on the baseline and around the rim is just a wonderful bonus to the impact Capela is expected to have on the other side of the ball. Trae Young and the rest of the Atlanta Guards aren’t known as defensive stalwarts (other than Kris Dunn), and Capela’s ability to cover space will be a boon to Atlanta’s perimeter defense.

“I feel great and ready to go,” Capela said of her health. “We can definitely focus on defense in every game, not just choosing which games we want to defend. It has to become an identity for us. A guy like me is going to bring that voice to defense and hold everyone accountable on this side of the pitch. “

When you look east, it’s clear that Atlanta is not a realistic candidate for a top-four seed. Milwaukee may be on the move right now, but as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo and former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s shooting range reside in Wisconsin, the Bucks are in lockdown to gain home court advantage. As Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown improve their overall game, Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics are also sure to dominate the East. The Raptors are always underrated and generally outperform behind stellar coaching from Nick Nurse and a cast of fundamentally solid ballers. That shouldn’t change even if they move from Toronto to Tampa Bay.

It’s safe to say that defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat will be in the hunt for a high seed, and Philadelphia’s Daryl Morey only needed about three hours in the evening. from the draft to transform the 76ers roster and shoot the transcendent talents of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Brooklyn have Kevin Durant coming out of an Achilles tendon injury and Kyrie Irving is hardly the image of an iron man, but the Nets (theoretically) have more high-end talent than anyone outside. of Los Angeles.

Luckily for the Hawks, the fall after that is steeper than the unexpected last step at the end of a deceptively short staircase. The Orlando Magic have some interesting pieces, but not a single player should be considered a game changer. Indiana is normally competitive, but they need Victor Oladipo to regain his 2017-18 form for them to qualify. for the playoffs. One can only guess how hard Washington is going to play with a guard duo of Bradley Beal and a rapidly declining Russell Westbrook, and absolutely no one is afraid of the Charlotte LaMelo Balls.

And so there seems to be a very good chance that the Hawks can at least qualify for the new NBA play-in tournament. And if they can make the playoffs and get hot, anything can happen …….

“I think we have a ton of potential and we have a good opportunity,” said Reddish. “We’re deep, we can shoot the ball and we can do anything. So it’s just a matter of coming together and embracing what the coaches are saying. The sky is the limit from there.

The NBA preseason begins today (Friday) and the Hawks play the visiting Orlando Magic at 7:00 am.

You can contact Joseph Dycus at joseph.a.dycus@gmail.com.

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