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Player Development Remains an Issue for Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks cannot sacrifice player development for short-term goals.
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The Atlanta Hawks are not reaching the expectations that many in the fan base expected. One of the main issues that have plagued the team for almost two years is the lack of player development under head coach Nate McMillan. 

McMillan has repeatedly said his team is not developing. That statement has always raised red flags with fans and media alike. Outside of Bodgan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela, every player in the main rotation is 25 years old or younger. Not many players make significant gains after the age of 25. 

One shining example of player development is the Memphis Grizzles. Their franchise has committed to the development of younger players. Most of Memphis' roster is between 23-26 years old. Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks have made great strides in the years they have been there because of that organization's commitment. 

Of course, the San Antonio Spurs have always focused on development, even during their golden years with the "big three." You could even use Dejounte Murray as a recent example of San Antonio's system. 

McMillan's statements about the developmental process indicate he prefers polished players or is already more developed. This is evident by observing his rotations. Playing time for rookies is critical to their maturation. Yet, McMillian seemingly wants to forego that vital part of team-building. That is why former assistant coach Chris Jent was such a huge loss for the team this offseason. 

Trae Young standing beside Nate McMillan.

Trae Young standing next to Nate McMillan.

In the spring of 2021, McMillan had to be nudged to play Onkeya Okwongu during his rookie season. The following year, Jalen Johnson was almost entirely relegated to the G-league. AJ Griffin is an outlier, and that is because injuries elevated the rookie into the rotation. It quickly became apparent that Griffin had a more developed game than most players his age.

Former head coach Lloyd Pierce may not have gotten along with his players, but the early development of De'Andre Hunter and John Collins is undeniable. Pierce's successor has received criticism for his lack of an imaginative scheme. But the old-school coach is skipping crucial steps, which translates to players failing to meet long-term expectations. 

Even Trae Young could still use development in areas of his game. But if McMillan is not developing his roster, how can he help the team's star grow?

If Atlanta suffers another early exit from the playoffs this spring and the front office moves on from McMillan during the summer, the front office must find a coach who can build a legitimate player-development system. Otherwise, history is bound to repeat itself.