Are the Atlanta Hawks the Future Golden State Warriors?
By Nick Nagel - ESPN 99.1 Writer
Don’t sleep NBA fans...the Atlanta Hawks are making MOVES. After ending the Horford-Teague-Milsap era in 2016, the Atlanta Hawks went into full rebuild mode. Call me crazy, but the Hawks route to rebuild is looking very similar to a team we’ve seen dominate the league for the past five seasons, the Golden State Warriors.
Think about it.
The Atlanta Hawks hired former Golden State assistant general manager, Travis Schlenk in 2017. The team was hoping he would take a page out of Bob Myer's book and rebuild this team the Warrior way, and man is he on the right track.
Trae Young is a younger, less polished version of Steph Curry. The Hawks drafted Young with the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft. The Oklahoma product averaged 19.1 points and 8.1 assists a game in his rookie campaign. Young really picked it up after the all-star break becoming Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month four of the possible five times. In Curry’s rookie season, he averaged 17.5 points and 5.9 assists. I’m not jumping to the conclusion that Young will ever accomplish the accolades that Steph Curry has reached, but their games are very similar. Both are elite shooters that can finish well at the rim. I will even take it a step further and say that Trae Young is already a better facilitator than Curry is.
With the 19th overall pick in last year’s draft, the Hawks selected Maryland wing, Kevin Huerter. Huerter is a 6’7 sniper that can shoot, play defense, and make plays at a high level. The Warriors drafted a 6’7 wing back in 2011 with similar attributes as Huerter that can make plays on both ends, Klay Thompson. After struggling to find himself in the first few months, Huerter really turned it on during the second half of the season. He showed flashes last season with games of 29, 27, 22, and 19. Huerter will continue to improve entering his second season and should have a big impact on the Hawks’ future.
John Collins is one of the best players that you don’t know about. The Wake Forest product is entering his third season in the league, coming off a very promising 19.5 point, 9.8 rebound per game season. The addition of Trae Young vastly elevated Collins’ game making him a candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Collins is an elite lob catcher and shot blocker, making his presence felt in the paint. The 2018 All-Rookie selection had twelve games last season in which he scored 25-plus points and six games scoring 30-plus. If Collins takes another step forward next season, he has all-star written all over him. It’s tough comparing Collin’s game to Draymond Green, but he serves as that forward, glue guy that Atlanta can play through at times.
This off-season for the Hawks was a fantastic one. Despite not securing a top free agent, the Hawks made additions through the draft and free agency that surrounded their strengths. Atlanta traded up for the 4th overall pick in the draft to select Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter. Hunter is a long, athletic forward that can shoot the ball and play great defense. With the 10th overall pick, they selected Duke sharpshooter, Cam Reddish. Reddish showed flashes of greatness at Duke last year where he had to primarily take a backseat to Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. These two will likely have simplified roles in their first season as spot up shooters. Atlanta also drafted Maryland big man Bruno Fernando with the 34th overall pick. Fernando is a solid 6’10 big whose specialties are rebounding and defending. Trae Young is great at finding open shooters and is a tremendous lob thrower and will look to make the rookie’s transition a smooth one.
Free agency for the Hawks really started on June 6th when they acquired three point specialist, Allen Crabbe via trade from the Brooklyn Nets. Crabbe is a veteran that will spread the floor for Young and Huerter to work. The six-year veteran is a 39% career three point shooter that will be a dangerous weapon for Young. During the free agency period, the Hawks managed to land solid veteran depth acquiring Jabari Parker, Evan Turner, and Chandler Parsons on short-term deals. Although these three may not be in the team’s long-term plans, they will be helpful with the development of the young guys.
The Hawks are angling toward having two max contract slots next off-season. Adding a star or two with this young core could be the start of something special in Atlanta. This team is being built around Trae Young similarly to how the Warriors built around Steph Curry. Adding shooters and bigs that can catch lobs is exactly what Young needs around him to reach his full potential.
Don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way. I’m not saying the Atlanta Hawks will live up to what the Warriors have accomplished these past five years. I just find it interesting how similar the blueprints of these two franchises have become. Other than the Kevin Durant addition in 2016, the Warriors primarily built through the draft, similar to what Atlanta is doing right now. The games of Trae Young and Kevin Huerter mirror the games of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. John Collins is on the verge of being a real force in this league. If you think this take is absolutely crazy, you haven’t been paying attention, but I don’t blame you. The Hawks are rarely on TV and haven’t been relevant for about four or five years. All I’m saying is don’t sleep on them.
Travis Schlenk knows what it takes to build a championship team. Remember it took Steph Curry and the Warriors about six years to reach their peak. In year three of this Atlanta Hawks rebuild, we are watching the core of this roster come together. The young talent of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins, DeAndre Hunter, and Cam Reddish could make some noise in the next three to five years. Be on the lookout for the Atlanta Hawks.