Trying to Make Sense of the Atlanta Hawks Hype

NBA Twitter seems to be under the impression that the Atlanta Hawks are poised to make a major leap in 2021, as the young talent they’ve drafted or acquired in free agency comes together to create the nucleus of a powerhouse team.

Tommy Beer broke down the Hawks’ depth chart, and that means we can start to make some projections and take a look at whether this team’s going to be any good.

Let’s take a look at every guy on that list and consider last season’s biggest catch-all advanced stats as a starting point for what the Hawks have.

PG:

Trae Young: 5.9 Win Shares, .133 WS/48, 3.1 VORP.
Rajon Rondo: 1.4 WS, .068 WS/48, 0.2 VORP.
Kris Dunn: 2.3 WS, .085 WS/48, 0.4 VORP.

SG:

Bogdan Bogdanovic: 3.1 WS, .084 WS/48, 1.2 VORP.
Kevin Huerter: 1.6 WS, .043 WS/48, 0.2 VORP.
Cam Reddish: -0.4 WS, -.017 WS/48, -0.4 VORP.

Yes, Reddish was a rookie, but he was a complete garbage fire in the 1551 minutes he played. This would be far less cause for concern if Reddish were a point guard (consider the professional coming-of-age of De’Aaron Fox and Collin Sexton in Year 2) rather than a frontcourt player (where his ceiling in Year 2 starts to look like Kevin Knox.)

Speaking of, I have Reddish as a shooting guard only because that’s what the tweet says; he played 59 percent of his minutes at PF, 40 percent at SF, and one percent at center last season.

SF:

Danilo Gallinari: 6.3 WS, .166 WS/48, 2.4 VORP.
De’Andre Hunter: 0.1 WS, .002 WS/48, -1.2 VORP.
Tony Snell: 2.6 WS, .076 WS/48, 0.1 VORP.

Hunter was a rookie as well, but like I just said about Reddish, when a forward stinks out the joint as a rookie, that does not augur well for his career. Guards take awhile to develop. Forwards who put up garbage fire advanced stats tend to become draft busts. I am not in any way whatsoever convinced that Reddish or Hunter are ever going to be key rotation contributors, much less quality starters, on a contender.

PF:

John Collins: 4.9 WS, .174 WS/48, 1.7 VORP (in 41 games because of a PED suspension)
Onyeka Okongwu (rookie; put up 16.2 points and 8.6 boards a game in college, shot 61.6 percent.)

C:

Clint Capela: 4.9 WS, .184 WS/48, 1.1 VORP.
Bruno Fernando: 0.8 WS, .055 WS/48, -0.4 VORP as a rookie.

Where’s the beef here? We already know nobody on this team can play a lick of defense. That’s bad.

But what’s worse is the sheer volume of below-average offensive players who are supposed to somehow work well in a resurgent offensive system?

Without even adjusting these guys for minutes, there’s only 33.5 Win Shares on this entire roster, and again, that’s taking a total minutes-played number for this roster that exceeds the number of minutes available in a 72-game NBA season. Someone’s going to have a dropoff.

But even giving them the full benefit of the doubt, we’re talking about a 34-38 team. That’ll get them into the play-in games, sure, especially in the wretched East, but this team’s supposed to develop into something good?

Prorating the VORP to 1.81 wins per one VORP instead of 2.07 (to adjust for the 10 lost games) and setting the base at 17.8 instead of 20.34 (again, prorating for a 72-game season), we get a win projection of 33.02 wins, or a 33-39 record, again not considering the total minutes these guys played last year relative to the available minutes in a full season.

Let’s give the Hawks the benefit of the doubt since they have young talent that should get better in 2021…but how much better? This isn’t a contending roster any way you cut it, two of their second-year players have first-year advanced stats that live in the Kevin Knox/Andrew Wiggins hell hole of disappointment that suggests they might not be that good, and they’re bound to run into injury problems since they’ve got guys on their roster who couldn’t stay on the floor either in Atlanta or on whatever team they came over from.

At best, this team wins between 38 and 40 games out of 72, a 45-win team give or take in an 82-game season.

Great. Atlanta just built the late-10s Indiana Pacers. Their ceiling is a mid-seed in the East and a road Game 1 in the first round. At best, they’ll pull an occasional upset, but this team screams Mediocrity Hell.

They’re going to have to either trade whatever surplus assets can net them another piece, or they’re going to have to hope Lloyd Pierce is the best developer of young talent since Gregg Popovich had his Big Three as rookies in the late ’90s and early aughts.

That’s a tall ask, and I’m not convinced for half a second that this Hawks team will be anything other than a team with a good offense, an atrocious defense, and a tough-but-ultimately-beatable first-round out.

I’m just not buying the hype.