Although the Atlanta Hawks’ six-game loss to the Boston Celtics certainly showed some signs of hope for the franchise going forward, it also made obvious several foundational flaws in Atlanta’s roster construction, flaws that can and must be addressed in the upcoming offseason.
With that being said, here is an optimal yet still somewhat realistic potential starting lineup for the 2023-24 Atlanta Hawks that would shore up several of the gaps that were exposed against the Celtics.
Point Guard: Trae Young
The Hawks’ best player since Dominique Wilkins, Trae Young saw his name floated around in a series of unfounded, unsourced trade rumors this season. It’s true that Young posted some pretty suboptimal efficiency numbers this year and largely struggled to establish synergy with new running mate Dejounte Murray.
All that being said, this is still Trae Young, a player who has proven himself capable of authoring some of the most efficient offenses, statistically speaking, in NBA history, and who demonstrated once again in this year’s playoffs that he does not run away from but rather embraces the do-or-die moments.
Young’s game has well-documented flaws, primarily on the defensive end, but there was a noticeable uptick in his defensive effort and tactical approach after Quin Snyder took over the reins for Nate McMillan.
If the Atlanta Hawks put a roster around him that is tailored to his strengths and gives him the maximum amount of room to operate, there is no reason to believe that Young can’t still be the best player on a contender.
Shooting Guard: Dejounte Murray
Following his blockbuster trade from the San Antonio Spurs last offseason, Dejounte Murray’s first season in a Hawks uniform was not exactly what Hawks fans had envisioned when news broke last summer that Trae Young was finally getting an All-Star teammate.
Young and Murray failed to complement each other’s strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses, and although Murray had stretches, primarily a torrent streak of games in January, that showed why Atlanta was willing to part with multiple first-round picks to get him, he still didn’t quite reach the certified co-star level that the Hawks were banking on.
What’s important to remember here is that the majority of last season must be viewed through the lens of McMillan, a coach who has proven at every stop of his career that his offensive philosophy is more reminiscent of a team from 1992 than one in 2023. If Quin Snyder can encourage Atlanta to emphasize three-point shooting more so than contested mid-range jumpers, Murray will have a lot more room to get to his spots and showcase his star-level arsenal, which does and should still include the mid-range.
Defensively, Murray was a mixed bag this year and largely failed to stay in front of Boston’s guards and wings. But this problem can at least partially be remedied by surrounding he and Young with better defensive teammates, as seen below.