The Atlanta Hawks raised eyebrows during their 2020-21 NBA season. Making the playoffs for the first time in three years was great, but making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals was something totally unexpected. In the upcoming 2021-22 season, they have a chance to mirror or and even surpass their previous success.

Of course it might still be too early to make any predictions. However, the Hawks gave us a lot of things to work with after their deep postseason run. So it's almost a guarantee that the team will make waves in the brand new season. The question is how big, how strong, and how will it impact the league. Let's try to find out.

3. 1st or 2nd Seed in the East

The Hawks finished with a 41-31 record for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. To recall, they started off with a mediocre 14-20 record. From the front office's point of view, this was completely unacceptable–especially after their key acquisitions like Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Rajon Rondo (who was later traded to the Los Angeles Clippers). In an unprecedented turn of events, they fired Lloyd Pierce and replaced him with Nate McMillan. As it turned out, it was the right move at the right time. The Hawks went on to turn their losing record into a winning one.

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This relatively rocky start is the reason why the Hawks ended up with their record. Subsequently, it hid how good the team really is. Thus, the upcoming season will unveil the real level of the Hawks' play. From their stellar playoff performance, we shouldn't be surprised if they end up snagging the first or second seed in the East in the 2021-22 season.

2. Individual Awards 

The 2021-22 NBA season will mark Nate McMillan's first full year as head coach. It will be his chance to develop and implement his own system, and everything will be under his own terms. This, combined with the rapport he has developed with his players, will do nothing but wonders for his stature in the league.

It is important to note that the man has been a coach since 1998. His record is a mixture of playoff no-shows and first-round exits. In fact, last season was the first time he made the Conference Finals. Prior to it, his deepest campaign was in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2005. His journey as a coach makes for an interesting narrative, and we all know how voters—the media—are into these sorts of things. This may be enough to propel McMillan to be named Coach of the Year,

Of course, how can we forget about Trae Young? He quickly shed off the label as the “guy who was traded for Luka Doncic.” He also stripped off comparisons with Stephen Curry. Young, who's entering his fourth year in the league, has developed into a man of his own making. He's a stud, a talent, an All-Star, and in the 2021-22 season, a possible MVP.

Young is clearly the front and center of McMillan's offense. He reads defenses well, makes the right decisions, gets his teammates involved, and more importantly, he doesn't falter easily (just look at his games in Madison Square Garden).

1. Another Trip to the NBA Conference Finals (at least)

The Hawks front office are strong proponents of the adage, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Save the acquisition of Delon Wright via trade, the Hawks didn't have any other key additions to their roster in the offseason. Props to them for retaining John Collins amid rumors of the big man about to walk away.

From the looks of it, the decision to not make any extreme changes to their roster could benefit them long-term. It's always tempting for any front office to add more pieces with the hopes of getting better.

Look at the Golden State Warriors during their title years. They were intent on adding new pieces every year. They knew that they had a large target on their backs. However, the Hawks management have a different view of things. Yes, some new players will make the team better. However, the ultimate decider is time. They want to trek the road to that elusive Larry O'Brien trophy carefully and with a lot of patience.

The front office is well aware of how up-and-coming teams have fallen off their chairs either because they rushed things or they were too conservative. From their point of view, the right move is to see—with an unblinking eye—how things develop. As they are today, the team does not need any major tweaks. Their chemistry, which was already at a high point last season, will even level up further.