To a man, the Atlanta Hawks‘ starting five set fairly lofty goals for themselves and the team with an emphasis on the latter. Their sights are set on bringing a championship to Atlanta and they aren’t shying away from it. That level of buy-in from the top of the roster is essential to any championship run.
But depth is also essential – a lesson the Hawks have learned even before reaching the postseason the last two seasons.
They sacrificed some of that depth in their blockbuster trade for Dejounte Murray.
Subsequent moves were made and depth was added. But the duo of Murray and Trae Young could be luring the Hawks into a false sense of security. They would be in the same position as last year should anything happen to one of those two.
Kemba Walker could answer some depth questions for the Atlanta Hawks
“Kemba Walker knows what it takes to win in this league,” writes Brett Siegel for Sports Illustrated, “and his veteran leadership is absolutely something the Hawks are lacking right now. As a whole, Atlanta is not that experienced of a team and Walker’s years of being an All-Star and being in the playoffs would absolutely have an impact on this locker room.”
The Hawks return the core of the group that made a deep playoff run just two years ago. But they also traded away the veterans from that group and some that helped them last season.
In their place, the Hawks have gone with a cheaper cast of characters.
“We know what to expect from Bogdan Bogdanovic, but can Justin Holiday, Aaron Holiday, and Onyeka Okongwu carry a bench that is littered with inexperienced players such as Jalen Johnson, Vit Krejci, and rookie AJ Griffin?”
Aaron Holiday is of particular interest because, as it stands, he is the backup point guard. He has experience with head coach Nate McMillan but has always been better off the ball. Walker would give the Hawks a proven playmaker and still flashed his trademark clutch ability last season.
The Hawks are also not exactly built like a team that is content with another playoff berth.
“Trading for Dejounte Murray this offseason…Atlanta has made it clear that they are “all-in” on competing at the highest level possible right now and at the team’s media day, Trae Young made it clear that this team wants to and knows they can compete for a championship.”
It’s been a popular refrain from Murray and Young since the trade went down with the former making clear upon his arrival that there would be no personal agendas this season.
Even though he was not with the Hawks, there is a bitter taste after following up the run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021 with the nine-seed and, ultimately, a first-round exit in the playoffs last year.
It’s not as though their competition got any weaker.
“Compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Hawks definitely have a lot to prove if they are to have hopes of advancing to the NBA Finals this upcoming season. Not only is health going to be a top of discussion for them, but the production from their bench will also be a key question mark heading into the season.”
Walker has dealt with injuries over the last three years. And the fact that he has yet to reach a buyout with the Detroit Pistons means any interested team would still have to give up something to get him — he’s currently slated to make a bit over $9 million this season.
The Hawks have also gone with a positionless style of play in the past.
But there is an argument to be made that – in the emergency event that something were to happen both Murray and Young – Walker, if healthy would be the better fit than Holiday.
That is a big “if” at this point, however.