Is this Trae Young's last hurrah in Atlanta? Possibly—in fact, probably! But hidden in all the hubbub about Young's future with the Atlanta Hawks is the fact that this team is as talented as just about any other in the league. Although the Hawks haven't reached the same heights as they did in 2021 when they came within two games of making the NBA  Finals, this is a deeper, better roster than the team that year. Dejounte Murray, their major offseason acquisition last summer from the Spurs, is the best player that Trae Young has ever shared the floor with, even if his fit has been a little clumsier than had been hoped; Nate MacMillan doesn't hold a candle to Quinn Snyder, who the Hawks hired in February to salvage their season. As such, the Hawks face long odds to upset the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, but it's not out of the question. Here are the three major reasons why the Hawks can—and maybe will—shock the world.

3. Potential

For better or worse, the Hawks don't really have a collective sense of what it means to play Hawks basketball. Whereas a team like the Celtics boasts an enviable degree of continuity in both form and function, the Hawks are still in the throes of self-discovery. What lineups work? Who should be in those lineups? If every game under Quinn Snyder represents a step towards realizing the kind of team they want to become.

In particular, the Hawks are loaded with intriguing young talent to supplement their established veteran core. Since Snyder took over, recent draftees like Onyeka Okongwu and Jalen Johnson have earned larger roles in the rotation, giving the team a much-needed injection of youth and athleticism. Although Okongwu is a tad undersized and lacks the same power as Clint Capela, he might already be the team's best big man; there aren't many guys alive who are as scheme-versatile on defense and as sure-handed on offense as Okongwu. Similarly, the multi-talented Johnson has popped under Snyder, demonstrating the cocktail of ball skills, court sense and athleticism that made him a five star prospect out of high school. To wit, the Hawks are so deep that A.J. Griffin, a sharpshooting wing who was one of the most impressive rookies for the first half of the year, can barely even get off the bench. The Hawks are teeming with good players who are getting better and more comfortable by the game.

2. Size

The Hawks: they're big! Outside of the admittedly shrimpy Trae Young, Atlanta is huge; Dejounte Murray is the only other player under 6'5, but he compensates by having a nearly seven foot wingspan. Their guards are the size of wings (Bogdan Bogdanovic is 6'6 with a 6'11 wingspan, Murray is 6'4 with a 6'11 wingspan), their wings are the size of forwards (Saddiq Bey, Deandre Hunter and AJ Griffin all have wingspans over seven-feet long) and their forwards are the size of bigs (Onyeka has a 7'5 wingspan and John Collins is 6'11). This size enables the Hawks to cover for Trae Young, lessening the harm of his disastrous defense while reaping the benefits of his masterful offense.

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More, it lets the Hawks match up with the Celtics; the vaunted defensive front-court duo of Al Horford and Robert Williams seems a lot less imposing if the Hawks have the size to avoid getting bullied. More, their positional size allows them to toggle between styles without making the sacrifices that are usually inherent in up- or downsizing. The Hawks can fit skill on the court without sacrificing size or vice versa. When you have guys like Hunter, Bey, Murray, Okongwu and Collins, playing “smallball” doesn't mean that you actually have to play small.

1. Trae Young

That stuff about size and potential is nice and all, but the Hawks can't win in the NBA playoffs unless Trae Young carries them to victory. Despite his signature shoe and general notoriety, Young is still somehow the most underappreciated great player in the league. Sure, all of his shooting percentages were the lowest they've been since his rookie year, but he still averaged 26.2 points and 10.2 assists per game, making him just the sixth player to ever reach those benchmarks in a single season.

In his debut appearance in the NBA playoffs, Young was a sensation, averaging 28.8 points and 9.5 assists per game as the Hawks sliced up the New York Knicks and sent the Sixers into an existential spiral. Last year, he was neutered by the Heat, hounded and harassed into one of the worst five game stretches of his career (15.4 points, 6.0 assists and 6.2 turnovers on 31.9 percent shooting), but the addition of Murray makes Young less susceptible to the gimmicky-y, attacking defense that the Heat used against him in the playoffs.

Fortunately, the Celtics aren't as fearsome a matchup for Young and the Hawks in the 2023 NBA Playoffs  as they may initially seem. While they're third in defensive rating, Young torched them in their two games, averaging 33.0 points and 11.0 assists. As evidenced by last year's Finals, Horford and Williams are uncomfortable venturing too far above the level of the screen on defense, which should leave Young room to saunter into his signature deep, pull-up threes.