First half summary: The Hawks were among the busiest offseason spenders and prioritized the playoffs. Well, none of the newcomers (Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn or Danilo Gallinari) have made a major difference so far because of injuries and sub-par play. That has the Hawks scuffling for respectability as a 4-1 start was followed by a February swoon that saw them lose seven of eight — mainly by blowing fourth-quarter leads. That was enough to get Lloyd Pierce fired as coach March 1.
Once again they’ve relied heavily on the young holdovers, mainly Trae Young and John Collins, with some interior support from Clint Capela, to stay in the shadows of the East’s top eight. Their defense, once a sore subject, is improved a bit. And the Hawks do bring a fair amount of 3-point shooters to the mix.
Biggest question going into the second half: Will the Hawks become whole? Their depth, which was clearly a team strength when the season began, took a hit with multiple injuries. In essence, Atlanta has never really seen the real Hawks, given the lineup and rotational changes. Of all the injuries they’ve endured, Atlanta could really use a comeback by De’Andre Hunter. He’s the Hawks’ only decent wing defender and has out since January with a bum knee.
The Hawks also need to see better efficiency from Cam Reddish. Remember, he was part of the two-player package that came in the Draft-day trade of Luka Doncic. While Young has, for the most part, pulled his end of the deal, Reddish remains an enigma. He’s shooting 36.5% overall and 26.2% on 3-pointers — not what you want from the swing position or from a player getting decent minutes.
Playoffs or lottery?: The Hawks will more likely make the playoffs than miss them. That’s because their young players should improve and grow (as they did in the second half of last season) and the injuries will heal, and also remember that Collins is playing for money. Basically, there is upside here, and those factors are in Atlanta’s favor.
But it’s not a cinch by any means. Their margin for error is slim, and any lengthy losing streak could spell doom for the Hawks’ chances. They’re currently fighting for a spot in the Play-In. Even in the best-case scenario, the Hawks’ ceiling in the East is probably a No. 7 finish. After all the offseason add-ons, this would be somewhat of a disappointment, especially if the trend of fourth-quarter collapses continues.
If the Hawks miss the playoffs, it would mean their plan has hit a speed bump. This is about the time when Young, Collins and others could use playoff seasoning, and it would allow the front office to add another page to their evaluations of these players, to see how they perform under pressure.
— Shaun Powell