Previewing the Southeast Division ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season

Originally posted on RealGM | By Keith P Smith | Last updated 12/9/20

Atlanta Hawks

Additions: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Onyeka Okongwu, Kris Dunn, Solomon Hill, Tony Snell

Losses: Dewayne Dedmon, Jeff Teague, Vince Carter, Treveon Graham, Skal Labissiere, DeAndre’ Bembry, Damian Jones

2019-20 Record: 20-47, 14th in Eastern Conference

Analysis: No division saw its teams improve more this offseason than the Southeast, and no team in the division improved more than the Atlanta Hawks. The ’19-20 season was supposed to be the year Atlanta made a playoff push, but the Hawks finished with one of the worst records in the NBA. That put GM Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce under pressure to get things turned around this season.

Aiding in that turnaround are major upgrades in depth at every position on the roster. Atlanta swapped out one of the league’s most underperforming reserve groups for a group that is now as deep as any in the NBA. After the rumored sign-and-trade of Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Milwaukee Bucks fell apart, the Hawks swooped in and got Bogdanovic for four years and $72 million. He’ll likely start as one of the wings and provide some additional scoring and playmaking. The long scoring droughts Atlanta suffered without Trae Young on the floor shouldn’t occur with as much frequency with Bogdanovic around.

Also helping in that regard is the signing of Danilo Gallinari. Initially, the Hawks plan to bring Gallinari off the bench. He’ll be the team’s primary backup forward behind John Collins and either De’Andre Hunter or Kevin Huerter. In this role, Gallinari can be the scoring anchor for the second unit. He’ll also provide terrific depth in the frontcourt, should injury or illness strike.

Atlanta played a lot of the ’19-20 season without a quality backup for Young. Jeff Teague solved that when he was acquired midseason, but the Hawks made further upgrades in free agency. Fresh off a title run with the Los Angeles Lakers, Rajon Rondo will be Young’s primary backup. That should allow Pierce to spot Young rest during games, without worry that the offense will collapse.

The Hawks also added Kris Dunn, who is immediately the team’s best perimeter defender. Dunn will be deployed in all sorts of lineups off the bench. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dunn close some games, especially when Atlanta needs stops late.

The team is getting a bonus addition of sorts, as Clint Capela will make his Hawks debut after being acquired at the trade deadline. Because Atlanta’s season ended in mid-March, Capela hasn’t suited up for his new team just yet. He’s going to be counted on to hold down the starting center spot, while being backed up by rookie Onyeka Okongwu. Those two should give the Hawks defense, rebounding and finishing around the rim that they’ve lacked from that position for the last few years.

The last order of business before this season starts is to hammer out a contract extension with Collins. Both sides seem to be somewhat far apart, and Atlanta’s other offseason moves indicate it is at least prepared for life without Collins. If no extension is reached, Collins could be a potential trade chip for upgrades in-season.

After falling short of pushing forward for the playoffs last season, the Hawks added veterans around their youthful core. They have competition for minutes on a nightly basis now at each position. That’s a good thing, even if it means Pierce will have to have some difficult conversations. It’s a step too far to say Atlanta is guaranteed a playoff spot in the East, but the Hawks should very much be in the 7-10 play-in mix.

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