The Atlanta Hawks once again struggled last year, finishing in 14th place in the Eastern Conference at 20-47, which eliminated any chance of an invite to the Orlando bubble.
However, Atlanta was arguably one of the most productive teams this offseason, managing to bring in a ton of impactful talent in Free Agency and via the draft to pair alongside franchise star Trae Young.
Although the Hawks lost a total of eight players from last year’s squad, they found immediate upgrades that will help them be more competitive this season in the East.
Offseason Grade for the Hawks: B+
This is where Atlanta made the biggest splash, adding tremendous depth and veteran presence on their roster. Defensively, they signed two players who will immediately make them better. Rajon Rondo was brought in on a two-year deal and is coming off an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers. His gritty style of play and experience in the league will help the young guys grow, while also allowing Young to take more control offensively thanks to Rondo’s facilitating abilities.
Then there’s the ex-Chicago Bull, Kris Dunn. Atlanta was able to sign the 26-year old for two years and just $10 million. Dunn, even more than Rondo, is a solid defender at guard and should give the Hawks some depth at the position off the bench. He’s a quick and smart player who averaged two steals per game last season and brings in another level of competitiveness that Atlanta desperately needs. This was a fantastic signing.
Now we get to the big boys of the Hawks’ Free Agency period. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari.
Bogdanovic was reportedly on his way to Milwaukee, but the Serb never actually agreed to the sign and trade deal that was apparently put in place between the two organizations. Instead, Bogdanovic entered Free Agency, eventually signing a four-year, $72 million deal with Atlanta. This is a tremendous add for this team as the 28-year old is a versatile wing who shoots the ball very efficiently from downtown and is also a solid playmaker.
Bogdanovic averaged 15.1 points per night last season while shooting 37.2 percent from three-point range. He’s also shown the ability to drain shots with minimal time, shooting over 40 percent from catch and shoot situations from long range. Bogdanovic hasn’t started much over the last two years due to Sacramento’s crowded shooting guard situation. But with the Hawks, he will most likely move into the first unit. However, Bogdanovic should have no problem adjusting, especially playing with another top-notch facilitator and scorer in Young.
Gallinari is another vet that Atlanta managed to reel in, acquiring in a sign and trade deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Italian had an injury-ridden career prior to the last two seasons, where he really thrived with the Thunder and Clippers. Gallinari is 32 years of age and also brings tons of experience to a team that was very young last season. He averaged 18.7 points per contest in 2019/20 and shot over 40 percent from downtown. Gallinari is one of the better shooters in the association and immediately addresses one of Atlanta’s top needs from the offseason. With Young dishing out dimes left and right, Gallinari should thrive from the franchise star’s nifty passes by finding space on the perimeter for open looks.
In other moves, the Hawks acquired another good shooter in Tony Snell, while also bringing in Solomon Hill and Nathan Knight (undrafted signing). Without a doubt, this organization won Free Agency.
As for the draft, they could have arguably received the top player in the 2020 class, but only time will tell.
Onyeka Okongwu was a household name at USC and was in the conversation of being a top-five pick in the draft. He ultimately fell to sixth overall, where the Atlanta Hawks snatched him up. A strong, athletic, and physical big, Okongwu starred for the Trojans last season as a freshman, averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per night. He immediately became USC’s best player from day one, eventually being named to the All-Pac 12 and All-Freshman team.
Even without March Madness, it was very clear to scouts the special talent that Okongwu was. He’s versatile at 6 foot 9, showing the ability to play both center and power forward. Although he may seem slightly undersized for the five, his 7 foot 2 wingspan and physicality around the hoop makes up for it.
Despite the high ceiling he clearly has, Okongwu is going to have to fight for minutes. John Collins is coming off a great year, while Clint Capela will eat up the majority of the playing time at center. The 19-year old will get his time to shine, but there won’t be an immediate clear path to minutes like other rookies from this draft class. His defense could separate himself from the rest and pave his way this season though. Okongwu is agile, laterally quick, and more than capable of switching onto smaller guards and wing players. He’s also a monster around the rim, possessing mind-boggling hops. The only area that could use some improvement would be his mid and long range shooting. Draining three’s is simply just part of the game nowadays, so it could be something that Okongwu could definitely work on.
If Capela does get injured, we could see a lot more of Okongwu this season. Without a doubt though, Atlanta got a special player here who should enjoy a very successful career. With a talented core around him, I don’t think Okongwu will have any issue adjusting to the NBA level.
Atlanta selected Senior Skylar Mays from LSU with the 50th pick of the draft. The four-year guard led the Tigers in scoring last year and broke numerous records at the school across his collegiate career. There’s a good chance he starts in the G-League because of the Hawks loaded roster especially at the guard position, but there’s some promise in Mays. He’s a natural-born scorer who got a ton of buckets for LSU last year and also shot the ball well from three-point range. Mays is efficient off the pick and roll and does play good defense. He’s got the potential to develop into a 3 and d type player at the NBA level. Mays could compete for some bench minutes this season, but he will have his work cut out for him.
All in all, it was another strong draft for Atlanta. Expectations will be substantially higher for this organization in 2020/21, but given their impressive offseason, the Hawks seem up for the task.