The Atlanta Hawks ended last season on an even state. They had split 82 games equally with 41 wins and 41 losses. That was good enough for a .500 percentage and a #7 overall ranking. Great at home with a 24-17 average, not so good anywhere that wasn’t State Farm Arena with a 17-24 away average.
Those numbers earned them a spot in the playoffs. It didn’t however, give them longevity. The Boston Celtics would do in the Hawks four games to two.
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With the 2022-23 season officially in the books, that cleared the way for newly installed coach Quinn Snyder to begin his era with the Hawks. He began structuring his coaching team and many of the staffers were brought in from his previous team, the Utah Jazz.
With his coaching staff in place, the Hawks began restructuring the team. The first order of business was to welcome newly drafted players Kobe Bufkin (#15 in the NBA Draft), Mouhamed Gueye (#39), and Seth Lundy (#46)
Bufkin in particular, brought along a level of excitement for what he could bring to the Hawks.
“There’s guys who love the game, and there’s guys who are in love with the game,” Fields said of Bufkin. “This is a guy who’s in love with the game.”
The Hawks parted with John Collins, a longtime Hawk with a huge price tag to keep around. Collins was a frequent topic of conversation about a possible trade. Trading Collins freed up $78 million and pushed the team below the luxury tax level. It gave the team more than $25 million to spend. The Hawks also parted ways with guard Tyrese Martin.
There was rampant speculation that team star Trae Young could also be leaving the Hawks. One rumor had Young joining LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers, which obviously never happened. There was so much speculation and rumors surrounding him and his team that he started a podcast on YouTube, hoping to circumvent such gossip-mongering by controlling the narrative himself on his own terms.
The Hawks began locking in its key starters, signing DeJounte Murray to a $120 million contract while extending Onyeja Okongwu’s another four years for $62 million. The team made other moves as well, introducing a new sky blue/black image on the team jerseys and court, and also signing a new patch partner after its Sharecare deal expired. The Hawks struck a multi-year deal with Metro Atlanta’s YMCA to have the “Y” logo on the team’s jerseys.
The Hawks were making big moves in the offseason, but the new season of Hawks basketball started slowly. Preseason kicked off with a 3-5 record.
The opener, against the Charlotte Hornets on the road, was a 116-110 loss. And despite strong performances by Young and Murray, the Hawks are currently #12 in the Eastern Conference standings, just below the play-in line. They were above the play-in line when last season ended in a brief playoff appearance. Their record is 12-18, at .400 pct, and losing three straight games as of this writing.
Young is shooting at 43.3% on average, up from 42.9 % last season. His 3-point shots are 38.5%, an improvement over last year’s 33.5% He ranks 5th in the NBA in 3-point shots according to ESPN stats. Murray follows in regular shooting (20.2% vs. 20.3% last season.) Point averages drop off with Bogdan Bogdanovic (17.9%), De’Andre Hunter (14.9%), and Jalen Johnson (13.9%) following.
The Hawks aren’t looking all that great at home (4-8) or on the road (8-10).
With the Hawks stumbling before the season’s halfway mark, already rumors are flying about trades involving Murray to the Lakers or New York Knicks. There’s no confirmation yet that any moves have been made, but it’s apparent that something’s not working with the Hawks right now. The team was marginally competitive in the first NBA In-Season Tournament, ousted by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 28. They won’t make much noise in the traditional playoffs either if a positive change isn’t made soon.
In the latest ESPN NBA Power Rankings, the Hawks are at #22 among 30 teams. The team seems to be hobbled by spotty scoring by anyone not named Trae Young or Dejonte Murray, lack of defense, and team injuries. The Hawks face getting back to and above .500 before the second half of the season starts.
By Brian Allen, editor and founder, Sports in the ATL
Coming up: Atlanta United.
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