The Atlanta Hawks are “next”.
That is according to Hawks star Trae Young in the immediate aftermath of the Denver Nuggets capturing their first NBA title in franchise history. Young has been a constant presence throughout these playoffs, showing support for the various standout performers throughout. He is also friends with Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.
Porter joked that Young was “jealous” the Nuggets had reacher higher highs than Young’s Hawks whose peak to this point is the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. But if Young has his way, that won’t last.
The Hawks have followed that Conference Finals berth with back-to-back first-round exits, this past season falling in six games versus the Boston Celtics. To Young’s point, Celtics’ swingman Jaylen Brown said the Hawks could have been a higher seed if they showed the same intensity as they showed throughout their series.
Young may also have history on his side.
Porter walked into a playoff team after being drafted No. 14 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, with Denver making it to the second round.
They then made the Conference Finals in Porter’s second season before being eliminated in the second and first rounds in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Now, the Nuggets are chauffering the Larry O’Brien Trophy around all summer long.
That Conference Finals berth came one season before the Hawks’ surprising run. It’s not much but it is enough to start dreaming big in the summer with the offseason and summer league still to go before the NBA comes back. The Hawks still have the bones of that ECF team under contract and a new head coach in Quin Snyder.
And they did manage a split of the season series against the West-leading Nuggets.
But they were 20-23 in clutch games – games within five points in the final five minutes of play – this past season after going 18-20 in 2021-22 and 18-18 in that 2021 run.
Swinging that trend in the other direction could be the difference between a Play-Tournament berth and making the playoffs outright. The Hawks were just four wins out of a guaranteed playoff spot this year.
Maybe, with a little improvement and a lot of luck, it could even lead them to the NBA Finals.
This message should also do a lot to quell the rumors that he could seek a trade this offseason which already flew in the face of everything he has said publicly. Young wants to bring a title to Atlanta and his tweet makes that clearer than ever and serves as a refresher for anyone who has not heard him say it before.
Atlanta Hawks’ latest pre-draft workouts feature more size
Whereas the Hawks’ slate of workouts scheduled for Monday featured mostly guards, their group for Tuesday offers a lot more in terms of size. There are just three non-guards among them but only one player is listed below 6-foot-2.
Still, it’s a guard that headlines the group with NC State’s Terquavion Smith checking in as the most decorated – 2023 All-ACC and All-ACC Tourney – and is someone who has impressed through the pre-draft process. Smith averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds this past season adding 1.4 steals for good measure.
The 6-foot-4 Smith has already worked out for the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards and has been mocked as high as No. 35 overall to the Boston Celtics.
LSU big man K.J. Williams is a former three-time All-OVC selection while at Murray State and averaged 17.7 points and 7.7 boards for LSU this past season. Williams is listed at 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds and would join Clint Capela as the tallest players on the Hawks’ roster.
Forward JT Shumate of Toledo averaged 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and hit 40.7% of his threes.
At 6-foot-7 he offers a similar profile to former swingman and current Hawks assistant general manager Kyle Korver. The Hawks are expected to emphasize the three-ball more under Snyder and, while Young has vowed to get his efficiency back up, the Hawks also need more capable and willing shooters on the roster.
Tennessee’s Uros Plavsic didn’t put up impressive numbers in his four collegiate seasons but is a physical presence at 7-foot-1.
Rounding out the group are 6-foot-6 Malcolm Cazalon (11.3/3.4/2.6) from KK Mega and 6-foot-2 Overtime Elite guard Bryce Griggs.