The Atlanta Hawks have plenty of talent. They have a championship-caliber head coach. They have well-run front office. And, for good measure, they have an energizing fan base.
So, putting their 2022-23 campaign in the rearview, the Hawks can look forward to an exciting future.
Nonetheless, while Atlanta has nearly every piece of the puzzle, they can’t just walk into next season without making changes. In fact, the Hawks have a few specific fixes they must make if they want to be 2024 NBA Finals contenders.
All dealing with their roster.
3 offseason fixes Hawks must make to become 2024 NBA Finals contender
Make sense of the frontcourt
The Atlanta Hawks have long discussed trading John Collins and there may be no better time than ever, considering the number of frontcourt players that are deserving of minutes. However, given the relative unlikelihood of the Hawks trading star guard Trae Young, keeping his longtime dance partner would be wise.
That said, the Hawks do need to make sense of their frontcourt, giving guy concrete roles that prevent any confusion or frustration. The best way to do that without trading Collins is to trade one of De’Andre Hunter, Saddiq Bey, Clint Capela, or Onyeka Okongwu. Considering the way that Hawks head coach Quin Synder brought the Utah Jazz to prominence Hunter, Bey, and Capela seem capable of emulating Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert to a reasonable extent.
If the Hawks should trade Okongwu, it would be for draft assets or a backcourt piece. The latter may be more preferable as they have no player in their second unit capable of truly running an offense.
Not to be forgotten is Jalen Johnson, a player that the Hawks can be utilized as a small-ball center in place of Okongwu but also has greater positional versatility.
Improve from beyond the arc
The Atlanta Hawks shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc in the First Round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs but they weren’t able to make those shots at a great enough volume, with the Boston Celtics outpacing their 3-point output by 33 points.
That may not sound like a lot but considering the fact that the Celtics won the series with a +32-point differential, the Hawks being able to make more 3s could have made all the difference.
Quin Snyder has to give wing AJ Griffin regular rotation minutes, with the sharpshooter making 39.0 percent of his 3-point attempts in the regular season. With 48.6 percent of his shots coming from beyond the arc, the third-highest mark among their rotation players, Snyder should also be making every effort to get Griffin his shots.
With that said, starters Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and De’Andre Hunter are a bit too streaky from 3 at the moment. This offseason, it would behoove them to really lock-in on improving their jumpers. This applies to Saddiq Bey as well, who could see himself starting at either forward position next season.
Give Trae Young an ultimatum
Whatever the beef Trae Young had with former head coaches Lloyd Pierce and Nate McMillan, it can’t happen again. The Atlanta Hawks as an organization owe the bulk of their recent success to Young but, as a franchise, they can’t continue to let Young run head coaches off. They can’t even let there be a perception that it happens.
Furthermore, while Young doesn’t have to be the player his teammates look to for vocal leadership in order for them to be successful, he does have to buy in. As the face of the franchise, and now especially as one with a reputation for being resistant to accountability, he has to league everything out there on both ends of the court. That said, Young did start to improve defensive under Quin Snyder and has had a couple of nice stretches on the defensive end over the course of his career.
Snyder’s job will be to get Young to do that over the course of the season.
And while Young may wonder if he has enough energy to expend to be a two-way impact player, the Hawks have done a reasonable job adding talent around him to help ease the pressure.
Him and Dejounte Murray should have no issue feeding shooters like Bogdan Bogdanovic and AJ Griffin. De’Andre Hunter and Saddiq Bey, who can make an impact as spot-up shooters as well, are tertiary on-ball scorers that can keep the offense balanced. So too will pick-and-roll finishers like Clint Capela or pick-and-pop option like Jalen Johnson.
The Hawks need to use all of their pieces and quite frankly they don’t. Which is why they also need to challenge Young to be a more determined facilitator, helping set the table for his teammates and giving them necessary reps and confidence before the postseason.