2021-22 Kia Season Preview

2021-22 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks hope to take the next step as contenders behind their stacked roster of talented players.

Can Trae Young lead the Hawks back to the Eastern Conference finals -- or beyond?

The Atlanta Hawks are quickly becoming the model for growing organically, allowing youth to develop and then watching it all come together. That enabled this team to rip through the playoffs last season — all the way to the Eastern Conference finals — and position themselves for big things this season.

Travis Schlenk, the Hawks’ GM, has yet to make a mistake in his four years at the controls. Some might say drafting Trae Young over Luka Doncic was risky, yet Young has gone two rounds deeper in the playoffs and, like Luka, earned a max contract extension last summer. So again, helped by solid drafting — and they just added a few more potential gems in Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper — along with trades and free-agent signings, the Hawks are flush with assets and poised to win 50-plus games.

They also found a way to keep talent from leaving, successfully re-signing restricted free agent forward John Collins. He is their second-best player and a solid tandem with Young. It’s all falling together for the Hawks, who are building something special.


Should the Hawks package one or two of their young players along with a Draft pick and trade for a premier player? They have the goods to do just that and it would accelerate their development. It’s hard to travel deep into the playoffs with just one star, and eventually, the Hawks must find another in order to become a championship contender. They could also use a lockdown perimeter defender, and that player isn’t on this team right now.


The Hawks are no longer a secret or curiosity. They’re trending upward in the NBA because of their emerging young roster, plenty of depth and the ascension of Young. That alone should put them in the top five in the East. Now comes the tricky next step: Can the Hawks push their way into the company of the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks? They might still be another year away, unless they catch a few breaks. Predicted finish: 53-29.


Trae Young: Franchise’s biggest star since Dominique Wilkins is a scoring machine and passing wizard, but defense is holding him back. 

Bogdan Bogdanovic: Comfortable shooting from anywhere on floor, “Bogie” is the Hawks’ most efficient scorer.

De’Andre Hunter: The Hawks’ designated perimeter defender and an emerging factor offensively.

John Collins: Good interior big man with shooting range is fresh off earning a big offseason payday.

Clint Capela: Reigning NBA rebound champ scored 26% of his points off pick-and-roll plays — many of which came off Young dimes.


Kevin Huerter: An emerging talent, he can start if necessary and is more than just a spot-up shooter.

Danilo Gallinari: No longer at his peak as a player, Gallinari nevertheless is a reliable shooter from deep.

Cam Reddish: Injuries have held him back, but showed more than a few glimpses of promise when healthy.

Lou Williams: A legendary sixth man, he’s still capable of getting some buckets off the bench.


How the Hawks have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …

Season W L Win pct. OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2020-21 41 31 .569 114.3 9 112.1 18 +2.2 11
2019-20 20 47 .299 107.0 25 114.4 28 -7.4 28
2018-19 29 53 .354 107.5 23 113.1 28 -5.5 26
2017-18 24 58 .293 104.4 26 110.1 24 -5.7 26
2016-17 43 39 .524 104.5 27 105.2 4 -0.7 19

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


160 — Young has led the league in assists on dunks in each of his three seasons in the league, registering 160 (34 more than any other player) last season. He was the only player with at least 125 total assists to multiple teammates: 141 to Collins and 136 to Capela.

— John Schuhmann

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.