Surprise! The Hawks are in the 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. No All-Star? No problem? That’s right, even with Trae Young on the roster this season he technically wasn’t an All-Star in 2021. Sure Trae may have been a snub but the remainder of the team? Atlanta is also here because of the supporting cast around.
They’ve arguably beat superior teams to them in the Playoffs. The Knicks and 76ers were among the top defensive teams in the NBA this season. No problem for Atlanta. Respectively winning each series to get to the Eastern Conference Finals and you can’t hate on it. The underdogs that everyone loves here are your 2020-2021 Atlanta Hawks at this point.
Ice Trae – Guard – 3rd Year
Trae Young‘s 2020-2021 season didn’t show any signs of regression or the direction he wasn’t cut out to lead a team. He was available for 63 of the 70 games scheduled for the Hawks as well. While he averaged 25.3 points per game in the regular season his overall game has elevated in the 12 playoff games prior to the Eastern Conference Finals. Below you can see the proof.
In case you haven’t watched Ice Trae in the Playoffs his antics started right from Game 1 of the Playoffs. His first appearance was asking to lead the Hawks in a noisy Madison Square Garden. The Knicks haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013 and post-pandemic arenas were getting the luxury of filling out the seats again. While winning Game 1 and eventually the series 4-1, Young’s silencing act in Game 1 continued on as he would take a bow in Game 5 while the Hawks were on the way to eliminate the Knicks. Just in case you missed a few of these golden moments, embrace the villain. While technically he’s not an All-Star this year, Trae Young has exceeded expectations getting the Hawks into the Eastern Conference Finals. Arguably, facing all superior defensive teams in the Playoffs, Ice Trae wasn’t phased.
Kevin Huerter – Guard – 3rd Year
Ever heard of Kevin Huerter? The 6’7 shooting guard is Trae Young‘s backcourt mate who started four games in the playoffs so far. He’s the man that scored 27 points, which led the Hawks in Game 7 vs the 76ers. Now Huerter isn’t coming out with any shooting outbursts such as connecting on 5-7 threes in a game but so far in the playoffs the most three-point shots he’s connected on in a game is three. 11.6 points per game on 48-percent shooting is a solid way to support your star Trae. Considering that he also started less than half of the games in the 2021 Playoffs his scoring off the bench has helped Atlanta. However, Nate McMillan decided to start Huerter the last four games of the series against Philadelphia, and here are we still talking about the Hawks. That adjustment alone is a good sign for Huerter.
John Collins – Forward – 3rd Year
Atlanta’s season didn’t look too promising when the rumors about Collins’ issues with Trae Young having the ball primarily and he declined a contract extension. The report hit around early January of 2021 and the Hawks were 5-6 through January 15, 2021. Lloyd Pierce was still the Head Coach. Collins still played 28 minutes per game and that’s just about his average for the season (29 MPG technically). Fast forward to the 2021 Playoffs and he’s arguably the second-best player on the Hawks this season averaging 17.6 points per game and rebounds per game. He’s shooting the ball 54-percent from the field in nine attempts per game in the Playoffs.
Bogdan Bogdanović – Guard – 4th Year
After a weird scenario this past offseason where Bogdanović wasn’t too fond of heading to the Milwaukee Bucks (and in retrospect maybe a bad thing?) he’s proven that he should be highly sought after for a playoff team. While he was the third-highest scorer for the Hawks in the regular season he’s officially averaging 13.8 points per game through the first two rounds of the 2021 Playoffs. His ability to knock down three-point shots especially in transition is key to Atlanta’s offensive firepower behind Trae Young. Should teams decide to double-team or trap Trae on the perimeter it’s been helpful to have Bogdan right next to him. However, in the last four games of the playoffs, he’s shooting 19-percent from the three-point line but we have to wonder if that was due to right knee soreness which almost kept him out of Game 7. A healthy Bogdan is a good thing for the Hawks and luckily, since playing Sunday night against Philadelphia, they get Monday, Tuesday, and will start the series on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.
Clint Capela – Center – 7th Year
Atlanta’s most skilled big man is Capela who is in his 6th year has some experience with playoff runs especially in the wild west with James Harden early in his career. He’s in Atlanta and he’s doing work! This season he’s averaged 14.3 rebounds (career-high) in 63 games. Could he be a poor man’s Rudy Gobert? He’s averaging 15.2 points per game on 59-percent in the regular season. His 1.2 blocks per game provide a little reinforcement in the paint.
De’Andre Hunter – Forward – 2nd Year
Honorable mentioned here. Hunter is one of the youngest Atlanta players who started the first 18 games for the Hawks before sustaining a knee injury. In those 18 games, he averaged 17.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and shot the ball 51-percent from the field. He was also emerging as one of the better perimeter defenders for the Hawks. Currently, he’s sidelined with a knee injury and will not play in the playoffs. Unfourante series of events but obviously, the next man in Atlanta mentality has opened up opportunities for guys like Huerter and Bogdanović to play more minutes.
He’s a familiar name in the NBA Head Coach pool but didn’t have too much success winning a playoff series. McMillan was a miserable 0-7 in the first round of the Playoffs of teams he’s coached from 2008 until now (Portland, Indiana). The audacity that people brought this up as a reason why the Hawks might not be able to progress themselves farther than the first round! Shoutout to Nate for not just winning ONE series but TWO!
Roster honorable mentions
- Danilo Gallinari – Foward – 12th season
- Tony Snell – Guard – 8th season
- Cam Reddish – Forward – 2nd season
- Lou Williams – Guard – 16th season
Believe Atlanta believe!
The odds and basketball media will lead you to believe the Bucks have the superior advantage. I’m not here to justify that Atlanta is going to win this series but should we really just give the credit where it’s due. This team has built a team from the draft, added Bogdan, and letting Trae Young become their star player. A coaching change midseason does not always put a team in the best direction especially into the Conference Finals this year. Kudos to the Hawks front office and staff for getting this young of a team in the right direction to be a winning ball club.
Here I leave you with a hot take and you take it how you like. I know Trae gets the Stephen Curry comparison over and over. But could you be mad if the Hawks attempt to build a similar team as the Golden State Warriors? Could this be that the Warriors blueprint can be replicated? Travis Schlenk is the General Manager and President of operations in Atlanta. If you’re not sure then Google him. His background includes being a part of the process that put the Golden State Warriors dynasty together. He’s already on the move in Atlanta since 2017 when he took over. It’s now 2021 and four years later with his star player in year three, the Hawks are heading in the right direction.