The Atlanta Hawks shocked the basketball world when they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. For all we know, this could be just a rehearsal for what’s to come in the 2021-22 NBA season. After all, it’s hard betting against Trae Young.
There are three big reasons why we could expect a stronger season from the Hawks. Topping the East won’t be a problem. Representing the East in the NBA Finals is a very feasible endeavor.
Last season didn’t give us a clear picture of the team’s capabilities
To recall, the Atlanta Hawks front office fired Lloyd Pierce after the team went 14-20 record to start off the season. This was an unprecedented move. Pierce was a decent coach. But this somehow revealed that the front office was confident that their offseason haul which featured the likes of Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanović were going to propel the team to further heights. Perhaps the front office felt that Pierce was failing miserably to utilize the new pieces.
Under Nate McMillan, the Hawks were able to finish fifth in the East with a 41-31 record. We can say that this wasn’t their “real” record as they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Along the way, they knocked down fan favorites New York Knicks and Eastern powerhouse Philadelphia 76ers. Did the Hawks overperform? Or are they really just an excellent team to begin with? All hints seem to lead to the latter. Those key additions in the offseason, coupled with Trae Young and John Collins’ emergence made the Hawks an elite team. It took McMillan to unlock their real potential.
Nate McMillan can implement his own system
In connection to the aforementioned reason, Nate McMillan will now have his first crack at developing and implementing his own system. As we speak, McMillan is probably in his lab, designing plays especially for that Young-Collins two-man game. When that doesn’t work, McMillan has plays that include sharpshooters like Bogdanovic as well as Cam Reddish.
McMillan has been coaching since 2000. Interestingly, last year was the farthest he’s been in the postseason. In his coaching stints in Seattle, Portland, and Indiana, he either got eliminated in the first round or didn’t make the postseason at all. It took a while. But we can say that McMillan has finally found the team which fits his style. This bodes well for the Hawks’ future. Not only do they have a franchise guy in Trae Young who’s surrounded by a solid core, but they also have an experienced coach in McMillan. Not all NBA teams have a solid identity like the Hawks. We may see this identity solidify further in the coming season.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
The Hawks front office are a pretty confident and patient bunch. They didn’t make any drastic changes to the roster. It’s always tempting to tweak your roster a bit after getting so close to the NBA Finals. It would be understandable if they pulled off a trade or added one to two more veterans to the squad under lucrative contracts to help Trae Young.
However, the front office knows that winning the title is a long and tedious process. Instead of luring a top free agent, they secured the likes of John Collins, Clint Capela, Lou Williams — who have become key parts of their team. Securing Collins was their best move in the offseason. After all, there were lingering threats that Collins might want out of the squad due to the dip in his production. But things got ironed out and now they have Collins for the next five years.