NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
Hawks owner Tony Ressler said it’d be smart to bet against Atlanta keeping everyone this offseason.
Well, Atlanta kept everyone – north of Tony Snell in the playoff rotation, at least.
And upgraded its bench.
And locked already-signed Trae Young and Clint Capela into contract extensions.
The young Hawks became even more complete as they look to build on their surprising run to the conference finals. Atlanta should be a stronger threat in the East this season and could grow into a top contender in the years to come.
The Hawks’ ascent starts with Young, who showed his offensive magic translates to the playoffs. By the middle of the postseason, it appeared inevitable he’d sign a max contract extension with a player option and super-max possibility.
Keeping John Collins in restricted free agency appeared dicier. He had plenty of suitors. But Atlanta stepped up with a five-year, $125 million contract. It’s better to have Collins on that deal than have lost him for nothing. But he must continue to improve to justify those high salaries (or see the salary cap skyrocket). Collins, who turns 24 next week, has the talent to uphold his end of the bargain.
The Hawks also did well to sign Clint Capela to a two-year, $45,881,280 contract extension. The 27-year-old is an excellent defender who embraces his offensive role – screening, rolling, finishing, rebounding.
It’s nice to have him cost-controlled as the team’s payroll rises. Young’s extension kicks in next year. As will the next deal of Kevin Huerter, who’s extension-eligible now. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will be up the next year, Onyeka Okongwu the year after that.
In the meantime, Atlanta addressed a longstanding issue: backup point guard. The Hawks re-signed Lou Williams – who shored up the position last season – to a one-year, $5 million contract. But rather than completely rely on the 34-year-old, Atlanta also traded for Delon Wright. Getting Wright for just a second-rounder, Kris Dunn and Bruno Fernando was one of the summer’s most sensible moves. Wright can run the offense himself or play with Williams or Bogdan Bogdanovic, the starting shooting guard who sometimes runs the second unit.
Atlanta also signed Gorgui Dieng to a one-year, $4 million deal. He’s a solid backup big and will be especially helpful while Okongwu remains sidelined.
The Hawks even re-signed Solomon Hill (minimum). The team’s top 11 in postseason minutes all return, as does coach Nate McMillan. Continuity can go a long way.
Atlanta even added to its pipeline of young players with No. 20 pick Jalen Johnson and No. 48 pick Sharife Cooper, the Nos. 12 and 29 players on my board. Though neither is a great bet to become a quality NBA player, that’s strong value.
It’s important to keep expectations for the Hawks reasonable.
What if the Heat – who faced major coronavirus issues and lost star Jimmy Butler for 20 games – won another game or two and bumped Atlanta from the No. 5 to the No. 6 seed? The Hawks probably would’ve lost to the Bucks in the first round.
Instead, Atlanta blasted a Knicks team that was far better-suited for the regular season than the playoffs… upset the 76ers despite getting outscored by Philadelphia, which had a banged-up Joel Embiid and a crumbling Ben Simmons… then faced Milwaukee in the conference finals. To be fair, the Hawks faced their own injury issues in the postseason. But Atlanta caught plenty of breaks, too.
The Hawks – thanks to internal development, retention and addition – should be better next season. They could also easily not advance as far in the playoffs.
But Atlanta’s window just opened. Next season is not make or break.
It could be pretty darned good, though.
Offseason grade: B
December 1, 2021
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New York Knicks
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