With an abundance of young talent, the Hawks will likely be one of the most fascinating teams to follow this season. But being interesting doesn’t always equal being good. Do you expect the Hawks to have a legitimate chance at grabbing a playoff spot, or are they still a year or two away?
No, they’re still at least a year away. The focus is and should be on the young guys, but the rest of the roster took a step backwards from last season. They’re bringing in rookies to replace veteran wing players in Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince and elevated Alex Len to the starting lineup after he backed up Dewayne Dedmon last year. Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter should take steps forward assuming they’re healthy, but the roster around them is worse than it was a year ago.
Lloyd Pierce was (and remains) well-liked in Philadelphia, where he ran the Sixers defense for multiple years. Now in his first head coaching gig, how would you evaluate the job he has done so far?
He’s been fantastic for this young team. He didn’t put too much on them defensively last year and didn’t want to overwhelm the young guys with the defensive complexities of the system he’d eventually like to run, but his offense used Young in a smart way and let him do his thing.
Trae Young has become somewhat of a polarizing player, but there is no denying his offensive abilities. It’s not hard to see him being the engine of an elite offense one day. What kind of improvement are you expecting from the second year guard?
There are two areas in which Trae can significantly improve this year: defense and off-ball movement. He was maybe the worst defensive player in the league last year, so if he can make any sort of leap this year, that would go a long way toward alleviating some of his playoff concerns long-term. He had the ball in his hands so often as a rookie that he never got a chance to work on his off-ball movement, but it could unlock another layer of the Hawks’ offense if he were to be better as an off-ball player and trust that his teammates can make plays with the ball in their hands.
Much thanks to Jeff for lending us some Hawks knowledge!