It’s always fun and exciting when a plan starts to come together. The Atlanta Hawks are on that part of the rebuilding trajectory. They’ve been crafting the main pieces and juggling the supporting blocks for a couple seasons, and after years of terrible results, things now finally appear to be on the upswing.
The Hawks currently stand at 10-9 in the Eastern Conference, good enough to rank sixth. They’re also surprisingly ahead of reigning conference champion Miami Heat and 2019 NBA champs Toronto Raptors. That’s despite the injuries to off-season acquisitions Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, and Rajon Rondo, who have all missed time.
It’s also interesting that just three weeks ago, The Athletic reported a brewing feud between the team’s two young stars: Trae Young and John Collins.
Since Atlanta had lost four in a row at that point, it had the ingredients of a classic team turmoil. Young was the prototypical high-scoring star that hogs the ball, while Collins is the blue-collar sidekick that should be freed from all the mess.
But what do we all know? Just when we thought that wheels were falling off, they suddenly turned it around. Roughly a week after the report, the Hawks began a stretch that still looks solid. They have won five of their last seven games with an average winning margin of 12.4 points.
Young has also clarified the rumored beef with Collins. As it turns out, it was a typical back-and-forth during a film session that got blown out of proportion:
“As for the John [Collins] incident, me and him talked about it as soon as it got out the next day and we were both confused. It just got out and it was over a regular film session. So, there’s no beef or anything in there to begin with. There hasn’t been any locker room issues on my side. Anything that people were saying about locker room issues, there hasn’t been one. It’s all about our team and how we’ve been trying to get better in film sessions.”
Let’s now look at some reason why the Hawks are suddenly rolling:
Trae Young’s scorching run
Young was inconsistent during the first few weeks of the season but has since picked up a ton of momentum. After a six-game stretch (January 7-18) where he only had 16.3 points per game on a woeful 30.3% shooting, he’s now smoking the opposition for 37.6 points and 7.8 assists per contest over his last five outings, topped off by an insane 53.7% clip from three.
DeAndre Hunter’s progression
Second year forward DeAndre Hunter didn’t provide much during his rookie season, far from what a fourth overall pick should have made. Fortunately, he’s making strides this year as he has become more comfortable and assertive. He’s second in the team in points at 17.2 PPG and he shoots an efficient 51.4% from the floor, certainly good for a ‘3 and D’ guy. With his built and skillset, he doesn’t need Young to gain scoring opportunities too.
Clint Capela’s interior presence
Clint Capela debuted for the Hawks 10 months after he was acquired, and he was worth the wait. He immediately brought the rim protection that the team has needed for years. The 26-year-old is averaging a healthy double-double of 13.7 points and 14.5 rebounds on the season, to go along 2.3 blocks. He joins All-Star center Rudy Gobert as the only players to rank inside the top three in boards and blocks.
This one goes beyond their last seven games. The Hawks have simply improved their defense, a considerable shift from the 30th-ranked effort they showcased for the last past two seasons. They have jumped to 12th in points allowed (110.2 PAPG) and defensive rating, and third in opponent field goal shooting and threes allowed.
The Hawks will return to the floor this coming Tuesday, at 8:30 AM, Manila time. They’ll host the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.