Evaluating The 2021 Atlanta Hawks

July 12th, 2021

By Alan Lu

The Hawks are a young, up and coming team that is fast on the rise.  Prior to the start of the season, they were seen and written off as merely a borderline playoff team, due to being untested, as well as due to their youth and inexperience.  They really went all out in the offseason to sign many different players to bolster their talent and depth, and they signed Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Rajon Rondo as some of the big names this year.  It’s clear however, that this Hawks’ team is much better than they were perceived to be, and they ended up far outpacing and surpassing their season expectations.

Early this season, they struggled right out of the games under then head-coach Lloyd Pierce, and the 2021 Hawks started off at 14-20.  They made one switch to fire him and to replace him with new head coach Nate McMillan.  The Hawks also traded Rajon Rondo to the Clippers for former Sixth Man of the Year award winner, Lou Williams.  When the Hawks made those tweaks to their team, they made significant, massive upgrades that really launched them into the next stratosphere of elite teams in the East.

The 2021 Atlanta Hawks made a Cinderella run in the playoffs, due to the strong play of superstar guard Trae Young, as well as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, Clint Capela, and John Collins.  Their bench unit has consistently been strong, and they have been led by the smart and savvy coaching of Nate McMillan.  The Hawks managed to knock off the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs this year, which had everybody in the basketball world buzzing about the Hawks, with them potentially being the next future great team.

They then met their match in the Eastern Conference Finals however, and injuries have also slowed them down.  Trae Young got hurt in Game 4, and he missed Game 5, and currently, the Atlanta Hawks ended up losing in 6 games to the Milwaukee Bucks in their playoff series.

Atlanta Hawks’ superstar point guard, Trae Young played very well this past season, especially in the playoffs. His play in the postseason was a revelation. He helped lead his team to impressive series wins over the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers.
(Photo:
The Canadian Press, via BarDown)

G Trae Young
2021 (ATL): 63 GP, 25.3 PPG, 9.4 APG, 3.9 RPG, 44 FG%, 34 3PT%, 89 FT%, 23 PER, 59 TS%, 7.2 WS, .163 WS48

He played very well, as he especially thrived as an offensive player this year.  He is a very good shooter that can score at will, and he can make shots from anywhere on the court, even from very far out.  He has slippery quickness that makes him tough to guard.  He can knock down threes from way out, he excels at scoring on floaters, and he can get all the way to the hoop to score. 

He also is a very good passer that can find teammates consistently to get assists.  He can be a bit streaky with his three-point shot, and he ended up getting hurt in the playoffs, but Young played very well to lead his team to a deep playoff run this year.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars (4.5 stars potential)

Atlanta Hawks’ big man, John Collins is a skilled scorer that had a solid season for his team this past year.
(Photo:
Nick Wass/Associated Press, via Bleacher Report)

F-C John Collins

2021 (ATL): 63 GP, 17.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1 BPG, 56 FG%, 40 3PT%, 83 FT%, 20.6 PER, 65 TS%, 6.7 WS, .174 WS48

He is a very skilled big man that showed off versatile scoring skills, as he solid outside shooting really helped his team throughout the year, and Collins also defended opposing big men well in the playoffs.  He was very efficient in his role this year, which helped the Hawks to be a formidable force in the postseason.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting power forward on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars (3.5 stars potential)

Atlanta Hawks’ center, Clint Capela had a very good season, as he excelled as the defensive anchor and rim protector for his team this year.
(Photo:
Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images, via The Athletic)

C Clint Capela
2021 (ATL): 63 GP, 15.2 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 2 BPG, 59 FG%, 57 FT%, 24.3 PER, 60 TS%, 8.2 WS, .207 WS48

He really excelled as an interior player this past season, and he did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball.  Capela was especially impressive in the playoffs, and he had a knack for defending opposing big men and for helping his teams advance further in the postseason.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars

Kevin Huerter played well for the Atlanta Hawks this year, and he was especially effective in the playoffs this past season.
(Photo:
Adam Hunger/Associated Press, via The Baltimore Sun)

G-F Kevin Huerter
2021 (ATL): 69 GP, 11.9 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 43 FG%, 36 3PT%, 78 FT%, 12.2 PER, 54 TS%, 3.6 WS, .080 WS48

He showed off solid all-around skills this year, and Huerter showed off better than advertised playmaking and defensive skills for the Hawks.  He’s struggled more to consistently make shots, especially when he looks to attack the basket, but he has generally played well this past season.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting shooting guard on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Atlanta Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic had a solid season, as he played well both in the regular season and in the playoffs this year.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Soaring Down South)

F Bogdan Bogdanović
2021 (ATL): 44 GP, 16.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 47 FG%, 44 3PT%, 91 FT%, 17.6 PER, 62 TS%, 3.9 WS, .142 WS48

He played very well, as he excelled as an all-around player for his team, and he especially shot the ball well.  He didn’t quite shoot as well in the playoffs, but Bogdanovic excelled in his role for the Hawks this year.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting small forward on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Atlanta Hawks’ super sub, Danilo Gallinari is a tremendously skilled big man that can play all three frontcourt positions, and he played very well for his team this past season.
(Photo:
Justin Ford/USA Today Sports, via DraftKings Nation)

F Danilo Gallinari
2021 (ATL): 51 GP, 13.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 43 FG%, 41 3PT%, 93 FT%, 16.3 PER, 61 TS%, 3.7 WS, .146 WS48

He played really well this past season, and he thrived as a tall sharpshooter that can really score at will on offense off the bench.  He would be a matchup nightmare for his opponents, as his unique skill set would really swing it in his team’s favor, which really helped the Hawks this season.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Atlanta Hawks’ guard, Lou Williams had a solid season overall, and he turned in some very good games in the postseason this year.
(Photo:
John Bazemore/Associated Press, via Bleacher Report)

G Lou Williams
2021 (LAC/ATL): 66 GP, 11.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.1 RPG, 41 FG%, 40 3PT%, 87 FT%, 14 PER, 52 TS%, 1.7 WS, .056 WS48

Lou Williams excelled as a three-point shooter, but he struggled to knock down shots as consistently during the regular season.  He really shined in the playoffs, and he did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he provided the Hawks with a much needed, shot creator off the bench to bolster their team. 

He’s been very helpful for the Hawks, especially when Trae Young is out due to injuries, as his ability to knock down shots and create for his team has been able to help stabilize his team and add some scoring punch in the postseason.

2021 Season Grade: B (B w/LAC and ATL)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Williams will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F De’Andre Hunter
2021 (ATL): 23 GP, 15 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 48 FG%, 33 3PT%, 86 FT%, 15.7 PER, 60 TS%, 1.7 WS, .123 WS48

He played very well in the regular season, as he thrived as a scorer and defender before getting hurt, which caused him to miss the rest of the season and the entire playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting small forward on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Cam Reddish scored 21 points in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in his team’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and he played very well in the postseason after missing so much time in the regular season due to injury.
(Photo:
Brett Davis/USA Today Sports, via Fansided’s Soaring Down South)

G-F Cam Reddish
2021 (ATL): 26 GP, 11.2 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 37 FG%, 26 3PT%, 82 FT%, 9.3 PER, 49 TS%, 0.4 WS, .026 WS48

It was an up and down year for Reddish, and he ended his season on a high note by playing well in the playoffs this year. He struggled in the regular season as he didn’t shoot the ball very well nor get as many assists as expected, and he then got hurt, which caused him to miss the rest of the regular season.  Reddish came back unexpectedly in the postseason and shined in the playoffs, and he was much better as a shooter, scorer, and defender, for his team.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (3 stars potential)

G-F Tony Snell
2021 (ATL): 47 GP, 5.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 51 FG%, 57 3PT%, 100 FT%, 9.5 PER, 71 TS%, 2 WS, .099 WS48

He thrived as a sharpshooter during the regular season, and while he didn’t seem to shoot the ball enough, he was very effective as a floor spacer for his team.  He didn’t play much in the playoffs, though.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F-C Onyeka Okongwu
2021 (ATL): 50 GP, 4.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 64 FG%, 63 FT%, 16.8 PER, 65 TS%, 1.9 WS, .155 WS48

Okongwu played very well as an interior player in his role this past season.  He was hurt to start the year, so but he ended up doing a good job of making plays in the paint, which enabled him to be a rotation player for the Hawks late this year.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (3 stars potential)

F Solomon Hill
2021 (ATL): 71 GP, 4.5 PPG, 3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 36 FG%, 32 3PT%, 76 FT%, 6.7 PER, 50 TS%, 1.3 WS, .040 WS48

He didn’t really shoot the ball well this season, but he played adequate defense when he was on the floor for the Hawks, and he played well in the regular season against the Milwaukee Bucks this year.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Hill will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G Kris Dunn
2021 (ATL): 4 GP, 1.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 8.3 FG%, 0 3PT%, 75 FT%, -5.7 PER, 18 TS%, -0.2 WS, -.202 WS48

He played a mere four games, four ineffective games before getting hurt, which caused him to miss the rest of the season.  When he’s healthy, he can be a serviceable backup point guard that can play solid defense.

2021 Season Grade: Incomplete
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Dunn has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

G Skylar Mays (Two-Way)
2021 (ATL): 33 GP, 3.8 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 45 FG%, 35 3PT%, 88 FT%, 16.8 PER, 57 TS%, 0.8 WS, .140 WS48

He played very well in limited minutes this past season.  He excelled as a scorer and defender this year, and he could compete for a rotation spot in the NBA in the future.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

C Nathan Knight (Two-Way)
2021 (ATL): 33 GP, 3.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 37 FG%, 18 3PT%, 80 FT%, 13.9 PER, 50 TS%, 0.4 WS, .070 WS48

He didn’t really play well in limited minutes during the regular season, but he showed a willingness to take outside shots, and he is a skilled big man that was able to have some good games in the NBA

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

C Bruno Fernando
2021 (ATL): 33 GP, 1.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 41 FG%, 68 FT%, 6.2 PER,  48 TS%, -0.1 WS, -.019 WS48

He’s a strong, athletic center who struggled to get playing time, and he also didn’t play well in limited minutes for the Hawks this past season.  He had a very disappointing season overall, and he may need a change of scenery to bounce back next year.

2021 Season Grade: F+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

G Brandon Goodwin
2021 (ATL): 47 GP, 4.9 PPG, 2 APG, 1.5 RPG, 38 FG%, 31 3PT%, 65 FT%, 9.2 PER, 47 TS%, 0.2 WS, .013 WS48

He didn’t shoot the ball very well, nor was efficient as a scorer, but he was able to provide some playmaking skills for his team.  He didn’t play very well overall, but he will need to make sure that he can fully recover, as he ended up missing the rest of the season due to a respiratory illness.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Goodwin will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Head Coach:
Nate McMillan
2021 (ATL): 27-11, 10-8 in the playoffs
Coaching Career: 688-599, 27-44 in his playoff career

Atlanta Hawks’ head coach, Nate McMillan did an excellent job of coaching the Atlanta Hawks this year. He coached circles around the 2020-21 Head Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau to help the Hawks defeat the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, and McMillan helped lead his team to get to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.
(Photo:
Nell Redmond/Associated Press)

After taking over during the middle of the season, McMillan did a terrific job of coaching the Atlanta Hawks this year.  He led them to win far more games than expected.

When the Hawks had fired former head coach Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks were in 9th place.  The Hawks finished the season with the 5th seed in the East, and they managed to get impressive series wins over the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers.  Head coach Nate McMillan has done a great job of maximizing the most of his players that are in the rotation, and he’s helped them play much better on both ends of the floor that translated into far more wins for his team this past season.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars

Former Head Coach:
Lloyd Pierce
2021 (ATL): 14-20 (was fired midway through the season)
Coaching Career: 63-120

The Atlanta Hawks never really took off under head coach Lloyd Pierce, and they were looking like an unmitigated disaster when he was at the helm. There were reports of tension between himself and Trae Young, as well as Trae Young and John Collins, and the Hawks could never really get on the same page when Pierce was in charge.

It’s mind boggling that the Hawks looked so bad with Pierce in charge, as they didn’t look to be cohesive nor did they ever play up to their potential when he was at the helm. Just as mind boggling was the Hawks’ tremendous turnaround after Pierce was fired, as McMillan then turned the Hawks into a juggernaut out in the East. All of this makes me wonder why the Hawks were so ineffective with Pierce all along, why they didn’t just hire Nate McMillan prior to the start of the season in the first place, considering that McMillan’s profile and résumé was much stronger than Pierce’s, and that the Indiana Pacers should never have let McMillan go in the first place.

2021 Season Grade: F
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Assistant coach of the Indiana Pacers
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Atlanta Hawks’ Season:

When the Atlanta Hawks hired Nate McMillan and traded for Lou Williams during the middle of the season, little did the people know that they would soon turn what looked like a forgettable season into a memorable one for the ages.

The Hawks really turned their season around, and they were able to blend their strong offense with solid defense.  Superstar guard Trae Young played very well when healthy, especially in the playoffs, and the Hawks were a strong team top-to-bottom, as they had one of the most potent second units in the NBA.

Their offensive firepower and strong shooting skills made it tough for other NBA teams to take breaks.  Trae Young and the starters posed a threat to score in bunches, and their bench unit had a knack for making runs to really make it tough on the opposition.  The Hawks had a Cinderella run that took them to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.  The question on everybody’s minds next is, can they can get back there again next year and possibly go further, or was this season perhaps a fluke?  Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, is that the Hawks are a very good team that played way better than expected, especially in this postseason.

The 2020-21 Atlanta Hawks’ Season Grade: A

The Atlanta Hawks’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Clint Capela
F John Collins
F Bogdan Bogdanovic
G Kevin Huerter
G Trae Young

Key Reserves:
G Lou Williams
F Danilo Gallinari
F De’Andre Hunter
G-F Cam Reddish
C Onyeka Okongwu

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
The 20th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
G Skylar Mays (Two-Way)

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
C Nathan Knight (Two-Way)
C Bruno Fernando
The 48th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Impending Restricted Free Agents:
F-C John Collins – Expected Back
G Brandon Goodwin – Not Expected Back

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
G Lou Williams – Expected Back
F Tony Snell – Not Expected Back
F Solomon Hill – Not Expected Back

Players with an Impending Player Option:
G Kris Dunn – Not Expected Back

Draft Picks:
#20, #48

Projected Offseason Plan for the Atlanta Hawks:
They have some cap space to work with, but it seems that they will likely use that try to retain the players they have on their team, as their top priorities will likely be to re-sign John Collins and Lou Williams in the offseason.

In the draft, they could look to add a player that can shoot, facilitate, and defend, as they could use more players that can play off of Trae Young.  They have two picks in this draft, and they could also look to draft the best players available, as a very talented player could always potentially fall to them at 20 in the draft this year.

The 2022 Hawks’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and 2022 Season Prediction:
50-32, 4th in the Eastern Conference in 2022

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
The Atlanta Hawks are expected to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference next year, and if they play up to their potential like they did this past season, they could make another deep playoff run in 2022.

I primarily went to Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research purposes. For further insights into my rating scale in terms of how I rate players and coaches, you can click here. Thank you for reading.

NBA Scouting Live
error: Content is protected !!