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Hawks, Trae Young, Clint Capela

What’s the Hawks’ next big move after trading for Clint Capela to pair with Trae Young?

The Atlanta Hawks saw an opportunity to land a solid big man, and they jumped on it.

In the wee hours of the night, the Hawks acquired Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets in a massive four-team trade that also included the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets, sending out Evan Turner and a 2020 first-round pick (via the Brooklyn Nets) in return. Atlanta also waived Chandler Parsons to clear a roster spot.

The Hawks didn’t give up much of anything for Capela, as the Nets’ pick is of the lottery-protected variety, so they basically landed a nice player on the cheap.

Of course, Capela is in the second year of a five-year, $90 million contract, so it’s not like this isn’t costing Atlanta anything, but the Hawks desperately needed some help on the defensive end, and they thought Capela fit the bill.

The question is, what does Atlanta do now?

Many felt that the Hawks would take a leap this season, but they haven’t done anything of the sort, as they are languishing near the bottom of the NBA. The good news is  there is a whole lot of young talent here.

Whether it’s Trae Young, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter or Cam Reddish, Atlanta is loaded with youngsters who have significant potential. In a couple of years, the Hawks could be a force to be reckoned with.

But that depends on what Atlanta does from here on out.

The Capela-Collins dynamic up front will certainly be interesting. There has been some chatter that the Hawks could potentially trade Collins, but I’m not sure they have to, as Collins can play power forward and has the ability to space the floor.

No, Collins isn’t the best defender in the world, but Capela has the ability to both protect the rim and defend the perimeter, so he can help mask Collins’ deficiencies on that end.

Atlanta should also have ample cap room this coming summer (NBA analyst Keith Smith projects the Hawks to have in the neighborhood of $60 million in cap space), so the club can make some moves in free agency. Now, whether free agents would actually want to go to Atlanta is another story entirely, but the possibility is there.

More than likely, the Hawks will have to continue building through the draft (they’ll have another high pick this year) and making shrewd trades and signings to bolster their roster. It seems hard to imagine any star players willingly heading to Atlanta, so the Hawks may have to force the issue here. It’s the primary downfall of playing in a small market, but just ask the San Antonio Spurs if succeeding in a small market is possible.

Right now, Atlanta is 13-38, so it’s pretty clear the Hawks are a long way away from seriously contending. Perhaps Lloyd Pierce has to go, or maybe we were just expecting too much of Atlanta’s incredibly young roster this season.

And you know what? The Eastern Conference is no longer a joke, as the top six teams are really good, and the Nets (who are currently seventh in the East standings) are returning Kevin Durant next season.

It won’t be easy for the Hawks, and because they play in Atlanta, they are already behind the 8-ball. However, there is no doubt they have the pieces in place for potential long-term success.