20-25 • 12th in EASTERN CONFERENCE
The Atlanta Hawks are an American professional basketball team that plays in the Southeast Division of the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference. The Hawks were established in 1946 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. They currently play their home games in the State Farm Arena located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.
The Hawks won their one and only NBA title back in 1958. Then the St. Louis Hawks, that team was spearheaded by the great Bob Pettit as they defeated the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the NBA Finals. In 72 seasons in the NBA, the Hawks have made it to the playoffs 46 times. Prior to becoming the Atlanta Hawks, this franchise was previously known as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1949 to 1950), the Milwaukee Hawks (1951 to 1955), and the St. Louis Hawks (1955 to 1968).
A number of players have established themselves as Hawks franchise legends over the years. Many consider Dominique Wilkins to be the greatest Hawks player of all time, while the likes of Bob Pettit, Lou Hudson, Cliff Hagan, and John Drew have likewise earned legendary status with the organization.
The Hawks haven't been a very good team in recent years. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2017, although they look to have already booked their place in the postseason in 2021. Over the last three years from 2017-20, the Hawks failed to reach 30 wins on the season. During the pandemic-plagued 2019-20 campaign, Atlanta won just 20 games against 47 losses.
Atlanta's fortunes turned around when they acquired Trae Young in a draft-day trade deal with the Dallas Mavericks in 2018. The Hawks traded down to acquire Young as they sent Luka Doncic to the Mavs. John Collins, Atlanta's 19th overall pick in 2017, has also emerged as a key player for the Hawks. This team also has a slew of young talent on their roster, including Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, and Cam Reddish. They make up one of the most promising young cores in the entire league.
As Atlanta's best player and cornerstone superstar, you'd think Trae Young would be the most handsomely paid player on the Hawks roster. Right now, though, that isn't the case.
This honor falls to veteran swingman Danilo Gallinari, who is pocketing $19.5 million this season. Bogdan Bogdanovic ranks second with an $18-million salary for 2020-21. Both players were signed by the Hawks in the offseason via free agency (technically, Gallinari was brought in via sign-and-trade).
Young, ranks just seventh in terms of the highest earners on Atlanta's payroll with $6.6 million this season. He's still on his rookie-scale deal, which runs through 2022. He is expected to fetch a hefty pay bump when the Hawks renew his deal.
The Hawks ended the first half of the 2020-21 season just one game behind the eighth-seeded Toronto Raptors. This is a good representation of how Atlanta is expected to fare the rest of the way, battling it out in a wide-open Eastern Conference.
Prior to the start of the season, the Hawks were expected to make a run at the playoffs with Trae Young’s continued development and the addition of key players in the offseason via free agency. The arrivals of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, and Rajon Rondo indicated that Atlanta wants to compete now.
The Hawks started the season poorly though, making it appear that the playoffs would be out of their reach once again. They eventually started picking up victories, but the road to the playoffs was that much tougher thanks to their early-season play. They are still very much in contention for a playoff spot in the East, but it's not going to be an easy road for the Hawks.
Trae Young is now a bonafide superstar in the NBA, despite being snubbed from the All-Star game in 2020-21. Unfortunately, in the modern NBA, it feels like a team needs at least two superstars to seriously contend for a title. This becomes particularly difficult in the Eastern Conference, with the Hawks contending against star-studded teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks.
To become a legitimate contender, Atlanta needs to bring in a second superstar to play alongside their prized point guard. John Collins is a stud, but he isn't superstar material. Guys like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela are key players but not stars, and while youngsters such as De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish have promising futures, they are yet to prove they can evolve into superstars.
The Hawks can always opt to take the long route and give their young studs a chance to shine, but even that comes with a substantial risk. If they want to be a title challenger in the near future -- and not just a threat in the conference -- then bringing in a second superstar to play alongside Trae Young is the way to go.
Just imagine a tandem of Trae Young and Joel Embiid. The mouthwatering prospect of uniting two of the top players in the league would solve Atlanta's current shortcomings. Embiid is playing at an MVP-level in 2020-21 and he's capable of making any team a title contender.
Then again, the fact Embiid is absolutely balling out makes this deal close to impossible. He's found unprecedented success in Philly this season (Doc Rivers has a lot to do with this), so it's highly unlikely the Sixers are even considering moving their prized big man. It might have been a different story during the previous offseason. There were whispers that Embiid had already outstayed his welcome in Philadelphia and that he could be available at the right price. That is clearly not the case anymore.
Then again, it doesn’t hurt to imagine this dream scenario. If the Sixers fail in the playoffs again in 2021 (another first-round exit would be catastrophic), perhaps the front office would consider moving on from Embiid for a monster trade haul.
Any trade would almost certainly involve John Collins, who is on an expiring deal (a sign-and-trade might be in order). Atlanta would also need to part ways with two out of the trio of Cam Reddish, De'Andre Hunter, and Kevin Huerter. Maybe throw a few more rotation players in the mix, a slew of future draft picks, and you have a deal.
The Hawks would need to give up a lot in order to acquire a guy like Embiid, but in the end, it's a worthwhile risk. This move would accelerate their timetable, as a duo of Young and Embiid, playing alongside guys like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari (assuming they aren't included in the trade) would instantly propel Atlanta to contender status.
John Collins is currently in the final year of his rookie-scale deal, with the 23-year-old set to enter restricted free agency in the summer. The Hawks could offer him an extension before the end of the season, but that does not appear to be in the cards. Atlanta will likely discuss a long-term deal with Collins during the offseason, but whether or not they can come to an agreement remains to be seen.
The Hawks selected Collins as the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and the former Wake Forest standout made an instant impression in his debut season. Collins made the All-Rookie team and he has improved significantly year after year. That is until the 2020-21 season, with Collins taking a step back with his play. A number of factors (both internal and external) are to blame, but the undeniable fact is that Collins' numbers have taken a dip.
It feels like the Hawks could actually be moving in a different direction here. So much so, that Atlanta could actually look to assess Collins' value on the trade market. Clearly, they would much rather lose him in a trade than see him walk away for nothing.
As of February 2021, Forbes lists the Atlanta Hawks with a net worth of $1.52 billion.
The team is currently owned by Tony Ressler, who purchased the Hawks in 2015. At that time, Ressler paid $730 million for a majority stake of the team -- an investment that has since more than doubled in the span of six years.
During last season's pandemic-plagued campaign, the Hawks reported revenue of $222 million and an operating income of $36 million.
The Hawks are owned by American billionaire Tony Ressler. He has been at the helm in Atlanta since 2015 when his buying group purchased the franchise for an estimated $730 to $850 million. Grant Hill was part of that buying group, and the NBA legend remains a co-owner.
Ressler made his fortune as a private equity tycoon and venture capitalist. He is listed as the co-founder of two highly-successful firms in Apollo Global Management and Ares Management in the 1990s.
Nate McMillan serves as Atlanta's interim head coach after the team decided to part ways with Lloyd Pierce at the mid-way point of the 2020-21 season.
Pierce sat at the helm for two and a half seasons. After a disappointing 16-20 start to the 2020-21 campaign, the front office decided it was time to move on from the 44-year-old. During his time with the Hawks -- the first team wherein Pierce served as a head coach -- he was able to record just 65 wins against 120 losses (.351 winning percentage).
McMillan, who joined the Hawks as an assistant to Pierce at the start of the season, has since accepted the interim post. Atlanta is the fourth team McMillan will coach after stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, and Indiana Pacers. Depending on how he performs during the second half of the season, the Hawks could very well decide to make his role as a head coach permanent.
Atlanta decided to call time on Lloyd Pierce's time as the team's head coach right before the 2020-21 season's All-Star break. The Hawks had a slow start to the campaign, and unfortunately for him, Pierce was the one who took the fall.
Prior to his departure, Pierce worked with five assistant coaches in Atlanta. First on the list is Nate McMillan, who has since been promoted as interim head coach. McMillan, a veteran NBA head coach, joined the Hawks in the offseason after a seven-year stint with the Indiana Pacers (three years as an associate head coach and four years as head coach).
Melvin Hunt, Chris Jent, Marlon Garnett, and Matt Hill are all listed as assistant coaches. It remains to be seen if McMillan will bring in a few new faces in wake of his recent promotion.
Mike Fratello coached the Hawks for seven seasons (eight if you include the three games he served as the team's head coach during the 1980-81 campaign). In 1986, after leading the team to a 50-win season, Fratello was honored with the league's Coach of the Year award. During his time at the helm, Atlanta made it to the playoffs five times, but the farthest they made it was in the second round. Fratello's 324 regular-season wins place him second for the most wins in franchise history.
Another all-time great coach for Atlanta is Richie Guerin. He served as the team's top shot-caller between 1964 and 1972. In eight years with the Hawks, Guerin amassed a 327-291 win-loss record, making him the all-time winningest coach in Hawks franchise history. Guerin also holds the record for most postseason wins at 26. He led the team to the playoffs in all eight years that he coached. Guerin was also named as the NBA's Coach of the Year in 1968.
Last but certainly not least is the great Alex Hannum, who is the only Hawks coach to lead the team to a title. This happened in 1958 when Hannum coached the Bob Pettit-led St Louis Hawks to a championship in one of the most memorable campaigns in franchise history. Hannum spent just two seasons with the Hawks, but the fact that he won a chip makes it hard to argue against the notion that he's the GOAT coach in Hawks history. After parting ways with the Hawks, Hannum went on to win two Coach of the Year titles (1964 and 1969) with two different teams.
Right now, Trae Young is Atlanta's cornerstone superstar. Young could be an all-time great and he has the potential to be the greatest Hawk ever, but for now, he's on the outside looking in at these five Atlanta GOATs.
Pete Maravich starts off our Top 5. Pistol Pete was a prolific scorer during his prime (he is a one-time scoring champ), but he was an excellent playmaker as well (he once averaged 6.9 assists as a Hawk). Maravich started his NBA career in Atlanta after the Hawks picked him third overall in the 1970 NBA Draft. The only downside of Maravich's career in Atlanta is that he spent just four years with the Hawks, with the team trading him to the New Orleans Jazz in 1974 for a host of future draft picks. Tragically, Pistol Pete passed away at the age of 40 due to heart failure after he collapsed while playing a pickup game.
Lou Hudson is another all-time great Atlanta Hawk. The 6-foot-5 wing spent 11 seasons with the team, which resulted in six All-Star appearances. Hudson was a prolific scorer with a knack for getting the ball in the basket. During the 1972-73 season, Hudson averaged a career-best 27.1 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting. Hudson ranks third overall in the Hawks' all-time scoring books.
Cliff Hagan made his stamp on the team, then the St Louis Hawks, during the 1950s and the 1960s. A six-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA, Hagan was one of the team's stars when the Hawks won their only title in 1958. Hagan was just in his second year in the NBA, but there's no denying that he played a key role for the Hawks on their historic title run. The 6-foot-4 small forward spent 10 seasons with the franchise, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.
Along with Hagan, Bob Pettit was the Hawks' star player when they won their one and only championship during the 1957-58 campaign. Pettit actually won the MVP award that season as he led St Louis to the title. Pettit spent his entire 11-year career with the Hawks, producing career averages of 26.4 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. Regarded by many as one of the best rebounders of all time, the 6-foot-9 forward/center amassed a total of 12,849 boards throughout his career, making him the franchise leader in rebounds for the Hawks.
Many consider Dominique Wilkins to be the greatest Hawks player of all time -- and for good reason. Wilkins currently holds several all-time records for the franchise, including games played, minutes played, field goals made, and points.
Having led the then-St. Louis Hawks to the franchise's one and only championship during the 1957-58 season, Bob Pettit is undeniably one of the most celebrated names in team history. A two-time league MVP, Pettit played all 11 seasons of his career (all of which earned All-Star nods) with the Hawks franchise. At times an unstoppable force on offense, Pettit led the league in scoring twice. His 20,880 career points rank second on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
However, the great Dominique Wilkins takes the top spot. Considered by many as the greatest player in franchise history, Wilkins spent the first 12 years of his career with the Hawks, making the All-Star squad nine times. He also had seven All-NBA nods and led the league in scoring during the 1985-86 season. Wilkins currently holds the franchise record for most games, minutes played, field goals made, and points. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Another name that has gained legendary status with the Hawks is Lou Hudson. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward played a total of 11 seasons with the Hawks, including six All-Star appearances. Hudson was a potent force on the offense, averaging 27.1 points per game during the 1972-73 season.
Pete "Pistol Pete" Maravich may have spent just four seasons with the Hawks, but he made a lasting impact on the franchise. In his four years with the team, Pistol Pete averaged 24.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He was named an All-Star in his final two seasons in Atlanta and you can't argue that it was with the Hawks that Maravich first made his name in the NBA.
Much like Pistol Pete, our next legend also had a rather limited run with the Hawks. Nevertheless, the great Dikembe Mutombo is still widely regarded as an important player in franchise history. The 7-foot-2 big man joined Atlanta in 1996 as a free agent, spending four and a half seasons with the franchise before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. After an illustrious 18-year career with six NBA teams, Mutombo was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2015.