One Big Question For Every Team: Atlanta Hawks

Over the next few weeks The Crossover will be examining one big-picture question for every NBA team. Today we take a look at the Atlanta Hawks, who were 20–47 when the season was suspended.
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How Much Longer Can the Hawks Be Young?

In their second season under Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks actually took a small step back compared to Year One. At the moment of the season suspension, Atlanta’s .299 win percentage was worse than the .354 mark it posted in 2019, though obviously are neither flattering. In regards to their long-term outlook, the Hawks are in a slightly tricky spot. The team has capable young players in Trae Young and John Collins. Both have expressed frustration with the constant losing they’ve dealt with since entering the league, but it also remains unclear just how high they can lift a roster as its two best players.

Moving forward, regardless of what happens this season, the Hawks need to decide if they want to push their chips closer to the middle of the table. With a relatively clean cap sheet, Atlanta can try to spend the next couple offseasons acquiring veterans and trying to raise the floor of the team. The Hawks appeared to be headed in that direction after acquiring Clint Capela in February. Bringing in more established players in their primes would theoretically help raise the floor of the team, and shed more light on how effective the young core can be against better competition.

The issue in that scenario is, do you raise the floor at the risk of lowering the ceiling? It’s not a unique NBA problem. The Hawks could also refrain from making any splashes and keep taking their chances in the lottery—a more subtle version of The Process—but that strategy runs the risk of alienating players like Young and Collins.

The Hawks absolutely have some talent on the roster. And rookies like De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish also have the potential to be useful parts of the rotation. But Atlanta can’t be an up-and-coming team forever, and Young’s All-Star bid may accelerate the organization’s timeline. The transition from young squad to perennial playoff one is not easy, and when the NBA is back, navigating those next steps will be critical for Atlanta’s front office.