There have been mixed opinions of the Atlanta Hawks’ offseason.
Their decision to trade John Collins came after years of speculation and, still, the Hawks have been unable to find a suitable replacement — though not for lack of trying — making their biggest question what has really changed?
“Things could eventually look different, but it’s hard to look at the current roster without thinking Atlanta didn’t just hit the repeat button on last season,” wrote Andy Bailey of September 29. “Are incoming rookie Kobe Bufkin and absence of Collins going to make this team any different than it was last season?”
Bailey noted that the Hawks broke the record for most consecutive games within one game of being .500. They finished the season at .500 with a 41-41 record, two wins off last season’s pace.
The team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals is mostly gone with just five holdovers.
This iteration has also been dispatched from the postseason unceremoniously in the first round in each of the last two postseasons.
“Atlanta can point to a year of experience with the Trae Young-Dejounte Murray partnership as a source of optimism,” wrote Bailey. “Quin Snyder came in midway through the 2022-23 season, so maybe a full offseason and training camp will help him make a bigger impact.
The Hawks’ outside additions include aging veterans Patty Mills – who is coming off an impressive showing in the 2023 FIBA World Cup – and Wesley Matthews. They should add some veteran leadership but counting on them night in and night out could be a very risky proposition.
It also doesn’t benefit the Hawks long term.
To mitigate that, Atlanta needs one of its youngsters, namely rookie first-round pick Kobe Bufkin or second-rounder Seth Lundy, to step up.
Bufkin and Lundy could have the easiest path to minutes of any Hawks fringe player because they are behind older players in Mills and Matthews. It probably won’t happen in training camp or in the preseason. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see it happen by season’s end.
Hawks banking on internal improvements
That still leaves the fundamental question of just how successful the Hawks’ season is going to be if they are banking on so few tangible improvements to the roster. Snyder getting a full training camp is one part of that.
He is expected to get the Hawks near the top of the three-pointers attempted list this coming season after the Hawks ranked near the bottom of the league last season.
Snyder has received strong votes of confidence from Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, and others.
A hot start would go a long way to quieting some of the doubters. But a slow start could be viewed as disastrous given all the time the Hawks have had to further improve the roster and their decision to largely stand pat. Collins was coming off a down season but he was still a member of a potent starting lineup.
Replacing him may not be as easy as penciling in one of his backups from last season, a lesson the Hawks could find out sooner rather than later.
Atlanta will kick off the preseason on October 10 at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their first regular season matchup is on October 25 on the road to visit the Charlotte Hornets.