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Atlanta Hawks: The need for a second star painfully apparent

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JULY 03: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks look on in the final seconds of the team's series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals at State Farm Arena on July 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JULY 03: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks look on in the final seconds of the team's series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals at State Farm Arena on July 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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As the Atlanta Hawks were watching their season slip away in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, one deficiency stood out among many. The humbling 118-107 (it was much worse than that at times) defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks was a reminder that this team is still in need of a second star to pair with Trae Young.

Look around the NBA. Every other contending team had at least one other star or All-Star they could lean on in the event of an off night or absence of their superstar.

You might look at the box score from Game 4 and think this is silly. After all, the Hawks were dealing with a hobbled Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic toughing through knee soreness, Cam Reddish on a minutes restriction, and no De’Andre Hunter since the Knicks series.

That’s a lot to overcome for any team, even one whose future is as bright as the Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks magical run came to an end and it’s clearer now more than ever they need another star

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Consider the Bucks, who got tremendous performances out of several supporting cast members in addition to Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the shelf.

They barely beat the Brooklyn Nets who were injured themselves. And the likes of Philadelphia and New York won’t just go away.

Holiday and Middleton’s performances are prime examples of what the Hawks lacked. Not only were they in charge of scoring duties, but they also harassed Atlanta’s primary scorers constantly.

In the Western Conference Finals, Chris Paul was able to carry the Suns through Devin Booker’s struggles and Paul George put on a heroic effort in the absence of Kawhi Leonard.

You need two to three star-level players in this league.

The Hawks were one of just three teams in the last two rounds to not have two or more players average 20-plus points and the only one to reach the Conference Finals.

They got solid contributions from Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. But Kevin Huerter and John Collins both had shaky performances in the worst moments while Clint Capela took punishment more than he dealt it out.

That’s life for a young team, no pun intended.

Except, after the year they just had, the Hawks might not want to “continue the rebuild” and instead be a serious threat for years to come. That could mean some tough decisions soon with Collins a restricted free-agent and Huerter extension-eligible this offseason.

There’s also the matter of the “interim” tag attached to Head Coach Nate McMillan. Any evaluation of him has to be viewed through the lens of the Hawks being six games under .500 when he took over and injuries they’ve dealt with.

"“I thanked them. I thanked them for committing. I thanked them for sacrificing. I thanked them for trusting and believing because none of this would have happened if we didn’t do all of those things, and they did.” – via Sarah K. Spencer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution"

Maybe Hunter returns and really is that piece. Perhaps Cam Reddish, who averaged 10 points and 1.3 steals per game in his three playoff appearances and had 21 in the deciding Game 6, can be. But “potential” is the most dangerous word in pro sports. How long do you wait to see if it means potential options are no longer?

That’s not to say you “give up” on this group, just don’t be too attached.

Next. Atlanta Hawks: Ball movement key to success this postseason. dark

A healthy Hawks squad is certainly tougher than what we saw in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. But what’s that worth in a year ravaged by injuries to the top talent?