Atlanta Hawks: How much better will the bench be this season?

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks were a lot of things last season. Scrappy, resilient, surprising. Their run to the Eastern Conference Finals surely wasn’t expected. Since then they’ve moved to retain their core of Trae Young, John Collins, and Clint Capela. In total, the trio could receive up to $378 million in new money as the roster gets expensive.

One thing the Hawks weren’t, though, was good off of the bench. But there were a few reasons for this.

Injuries caused a lot of shuffling of players in and out of the starting lineup. That, in turn, saw some younger guys like Skylar Mays and the since-departed Brandon Goodwin into more action than anticipated. But will that happen again this season?

The Atlanta Hawks bench unit should be much improved next season

Atlanta’s bench finished the regular season 24th with 32.9 points per game. There is some needed context though, as they were also 22nd with 17.3 minutes per game. Again, the loss of players to injury heavily impacted this. Getting a healthy De’Andre Hunter back, for instance, means Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish (also healthy now) to be featured on the second unit.

Huerter averaged 9.9 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 rebounds as a reserve last season. He’s been mentioned as a priority for an extension next and could seek somewhere in the neighborhood of the $18 million that teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic signed with the Hawks for.

Reddish put up 14.4/4.8/1.0 in his time coming off of the bench but he, like Huerter, only had limited exposure with the former logging five games in reserve action to the latter’s 20.

Both had 20-plus points in a game during the playoffs too. Huerter dropped 27 points to close out the Philadelphia 76er while Reddish had 21 points in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In addition to them, Lou Williams also returns after re-signing. But he should be able to return to a more natural role as a scorer. That’s thanks to the arrival of Delon Wright who should be able to split the reserve point guard duties at the very least. That role was supposed to be filled by Rajon Rondo last season and left the Hawks struck when things didn’t pan out.

The most intriguing piece added in free agency might be Gorgui Dieng. A 6-foot-11 center, Dieng shot 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. He’ll be critical with Onyeka Okongwu down until around the All-Star break.

But his shooting should only serve to open things up for the likes of Wright and Reddish.

Rookie Jalen Johnson is the wildcard in all of this. He won’t get much playing time to start. But he’s displayed the kind of skills that are hard to keep on the bench.

Health is a factor for every team every season. The Hawks were among the hardest hit but were able to overcome a lot of it. Of course, that will be tougher with the competition healthier as well. It stands to reason the bench will play a much bigger (and traditional) role this coming season.

In the postseason, rotations tighten. Nate McMillan won’t be calling on many of the regular season contributors once they begin. But lightning the workload of the starters until the playoffs begin will be just as important.

Next. Gorgui Dieng has a good tune up for the season. dark

Anything that can keep players like Hunter and even Reddish fresh is good and the depth on this roster should certainly do that.