The potential Atlanta Hawks trade target that no one is talking about

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

The Atlanta Hawks‘ early 2023 NBA Playoffs exit at the hands of the Boston Celtics opened the door for some interesting offseason discourse regarding the future of the franchise.

While trade talks surrounding point guard Trae Young have quieted down considerably following the two-time all star’s mostly stellar performance against Boston, there are still some clear foundational holes in this Atlanta roster that fans are eager to see addressed in the offseason.

While several big names, including most notably Boston’s Jaylen Brown, have been floated around as potential Hawks’ trade targets, one player who hasn’t been mentioned as much but undoubtedly makes sense is Washington Wizards’ small forward Kristaps Porzingis.

Outside of their ultra-malleable perimeter defense, Atlanta’s second most recognizable flaw in the six game tilt with the Celtics was their lack of outside shooting, with Boston continuously leaving John Collins open on the perimeter and overloading the defense on Young, and Collins continuously being unable to make the Celtics pay.

On the year, Collins shot an abysmal 29.2% from beyond the arc, evoking memories of the days when Josh Smith tested the durability of the rims of what was then known as the Philips Arena. Simply put, Atlanta owes it to themselves and the fanbase to look for a more reliable shooting threat to plug in at the power forward spot, or the Trae Young and Dejounte Murray pairing will never even have the chance to reach its full potential.

Enter Porzingis, the former New York Knick and Dallas Maverick who shot 38.5% from three-point range this season as part of a career high 23.2 points per game. At 7’3″, there is no defender on planet earth who can really even deter Porzingis’s shooting motion, let alone block his jump shot.

The 27-year-old Latvian also boasts an impressive array of ball-handling skills and agility that set him apart from other players his height (and there aren’t many). Although he’s never been an elite defender, his wingspan alone makes him a daunting presence around the basket for the opposition, as he averages nearly two blocks per game for his career.

Porzingis does bring along a considerable injury history, as is commonplace for players his size. However, he was able to suit up for 65 games this past season and many of the ones he missed were due to his team sitting out their best players in hopes of landing a higher draft pick.

Why Kristaps Porzingis makes sense for the Atlanta Hawks

To start, the threat of his shooting alone would give Young and Murray exponentially more room to operate and get to their spots, a luxury they didn’t have this year with Collins’ horrific shooting splits. He would also give Atlanta a third “give him the ball and get out of the way” offensive engine who can score from all three levels and whose fadeaway jumper is nearly impossible to contest.

On the other end of the floor, Porzingis wouldn’t do much to remedy Atlanta’s defensive Achilles heel–their point of attack defense–but he could certainly be useful in preventing some of the layups the Celtics were able to get seemingly whenever they wanted to in that series.

Why could a potential Porzingis trade make sense for the Wizards? Right now, Washington is in basketball purgatory. Their best player–and one of the NBA’s highest-paid players ever–is Bradley Beal, a volume scorer who’s meandered around the top 25-30 range of best NBA players for the last several years but is far from being a number one option on a contender.

Washington has little to nothing in terms of young talent on their team. The only truly formidable NBA player that they’ve drafted in the last seven years is Rui Hachimura, who they inexplicably traded away this past season for pennies on the dollar. Porzingis can no longer be considered a young piece to build around, and Beal, for all of the good things he says in press conferences, has made it abundantly clear that his end game will always be his pockets.

So, in theory, it would make sense that Washington could be intrigued by some of Atlanta’s younger players, including perhaps Onyeka Okongwu, AJ Griffin, or Jaylen Johnson. The way things stand now, the Hawks have at least two positional redundancies on their roster, with Okongwu and Clint Capela, as well as with Griffin and Bogdan Bogdanovic both being shooting guards coming off the bench.

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It would behoove Landy Fields and company to consider unloading some of these pieces in favor of bringing in an All-Star-level talent in Porzingis who shores up the team’s biggest offensive need.