Following a disappointing season, the entire Atlanta Hawks organization was put on notice from the very top. Team governor Tony Ressler said the organization had become complacent and that it would not happen again.
To their credit, Atlanta's front office responded with a strong yet shrewd series of moves this summer. Eight rotation players from last year's team either were traded or let walk away during free agency.
No player besides Trae Young was safe. Precious draft capital was sacrificed to acquire All-Star guard Dejounte Murray. Fan favorite Kevin Huerter was traded for two defensive-minded veterans on cheaper contracts.
Now that the dust has settled from the early July fireworks, it is safe to give Atlanta's front office an A for their roster moves this offseason. Acquiring Murray solved two problems - it gave Young a second All-Star to play beside and potentially filled the never-ending search for a backup point guard.
In theory, the Hawks should have one or more All-Star point guards on the floor at all times next season. But did the front office strike the right balance between stars and role players? Does the team finally have equal parts offense and defense?
On July 18, we projected the Hawks rotation; very little has changed since that time. Last season, the Hawks bench unit ranked 18th in points per game. Their top-rated offense was substituted for more of a defensive presence as games progressed. Atlanta's front office seems to have found a nice balance with this new roster.
Here is what we know about the new bench unit. Only two rotation players are returning - Bogdan Bogdanovic and Onyeka Okongwu. Bogdanovic underwent knee surgery earlier this summer and will likely be brought back slowly out of an abundance of caution.
With Bogdanovic temporarily sidelined, Delon Wright and Kevin Huerter gone, new faces will manage the second unit. Assuming one of the two team's All-Star point guards is on the floor, that leaves Aaron and Justin Holiday (both shoot over 36 3PT% last season) and net-positive defenders. No cause for concern on the perimeter.
That leaves the Hawks' backup big men. As I wrote back in January, Okongwu's time is now and has proven to be one of the best-kept secrets in the league. The undersized post player is an efficient scorer and an even better defender. Okongwu can switch onto guards, which he worked on just a few days ago with Russell Westbrook.
Lastly, that brings us to the backup power forward position. As I've maintained over the past month, Moe Harkless will get the nod over Jalen Johnson. Harkless' calling card is defense. In contrast, Johnson received historically-low minutes his rookie season primarily due to his defensive development.
Until the new-look Hawks get on the floor together (sadly, Pro-Am games do not count), this all remains theoretical. Variables such as personalities, coaching, and health will all play a determining role in Atlanta's grand plan. But compared to last August, this roster is undoubtedly stronger from top to bottom.
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