5 best players the Hawks must sign in 2021 NBA free agency
The Atlanta Hawks surprised many fans around the world when they stormed past the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Playoffs and then proceeded to put up quite the fight against the eventual NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Many fans and pundits were surprised when both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari opted to sign with the Hawks over various other teams – including the Bucks, in Bogdanovic’s case – but their decisions were rewarded as the team jelled at exactly the right time – and Trae Young showed the world that he is truly an NBA superstar.
After retooling last offseason, as well as adding veteran Sixth Man icon Lou Williams before the trade deadline, the Hawks look to be a contender for years to come.
However, there’s always room to improve, and there are a number of notable free agents this offseason that the Hawks should prioritize signing in order to keep up the torrid pace they started during the 2021 Playoffs.
Read on to explore the five best free agents on the market that the Atlanta Hawks should sign this offseason.
Hawks Free Agency
Honorable Mention: Kawhi Leonard
Let’s hope this doesn’t need to be said, but the Hawks should definitely aim to pair Kawhi with Trae Young to truly make noise in the Eastern Conference. However, Kawhi leaving LA seems unlikely, so this is more of pie-in-the-sky dream than anything else.
In this writer’s humble opinion, the Hawks should prioritize re-signing John Collins over anything else this offseason.
Collins has grown from a young, uber-athletic rim-runner to a multi-faceted offensive and defensive linchpin during his four-year Hawks career. Collins proved himself to be a tremendous offensive talent almost from the word “go” in his rookie season, and in his third season (2019-20) he put up 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on 58/40/80 shooting – sterling efficiency for a 22-year-old.
The chemistry between himself and the Hawks’ other young stars: Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish is apparent, and he also proved himself to be a truly irreplaceable cog in the team’s strong playoff rotation.
Since Atlanta and Collins couldn’t agree on an extension during the season, Collins will hit restricted free agency this offseason and deserves to be paid handsomely by the team – because of his production and his professionalism… and those dunks!
One thing became clear for the Atlanta Hawks during their tremendous run to the precipice of the NBA Finals – the team can never have too much shooting at all positions.
Longtime Spurs point guard Patty Mills would ably help on that front as a career 38.8 percent three-point shooter on a striking 57.1 percent three-point attempt rate. He’s also a capable ballhandler that would thrive playing behind Trae Young – or alongside him, as the Hawks experimented with Lou Williams at times down the end of the season.
While it seems unlikely that Mills, a 12-year veteran, will want to leave his basketball home for the past ten years, if the Hawks make an attractive-enough offer, then perhaps, he could be swayed.
Also, this move supposes that Lou Williams will not return to the Hawks as a backup, though he has made overtures about returning for another season with the team after the successful run this postseason.
In a quirk of fate, veteran swingman Kelly Oubre was actually drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 and then was traded to the Washington Wizards in a three-team deal also involving the New York Knicks that sent Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks and Jerian Grant to the Knicks.
In hindsight, the Hawks would probably have been better served to keep Oubre over Hardaway, but if they were to bring on the six-year veteran as wing depth would make up for their miscue on draft night by bringing him back to the fold after years of playoff seasoning.
Oubre has bounced between three teams over the past four seasons including the Wiz, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors last season, and his three-and-D skill set would certainly be welcome on the Hawks alongside De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish (unless the latter is traded on draft night).
While he wouldn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet in Atlanta, Oubre would provide plenty of depth on a team with aspirations to make it all the way to the NBA Finals.
If the Atlanta Hawks are unable to retain homegrown talent John Collins, the team could pivot to a different type of power forward by signing former lottery pick Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen provides the interesting combination of rim protection and three-point marksmanship that would suit this team perfectly, especially off the bench. In 2020-21, Markkanen shot a career-high 40.2 percent from downtown on 5.8 attempts per game.
The Finland-born Markkanen also nabbed a career-high in true shooting percentage this past season with a 61.9 percent mark.
While Atlanta should first focus on bringing back Collins first, Markkanen would make for a good consolation prize who fits the team’s timeline as merely a 24-year-old.
While it seems as if J.J. Redick might be approaching the end of his NBA career at age 37, the Hawks are the kind of up-and-coming team (a la the 2017-18 76ers) that could employ the wily veteran’s skills to their maximum.
With numerous ballhandlers on Atlanta’s roster (both primary and secondary), Redick would mostly be used as a decoy and spot-up shooter who can create his own shot in a pinch.
A career-high 41.5 percent three-point shooter, Redick is 15th all-time in three-pointers made with 1950 as well as 17th all-time in three-point percentage with that aforementioned 41.5 percent clip.
As the Hawks saw in their playoff run, shooting is always important in the guts of playoff games, so Redick’s veteran marksmanship (and leadership) would suit this team perfectly.
With the Atlanta Hawks slated to be a playoff team for years to come, these five free agents (and one honorable mention) should be top of the list in order to keep the team relevant alongside their superstar point guard Trae Young.