The 2020-2021 NBA season is almost at its climax, with the NBA Finals set to start on Tuesday. While two finalists will slug it out for the championship, the rest of the field has taken an early vacation with hopes of a better next season and beyond. While injuries mired the playoffs this year, it also proved one thing: the future is bright for some teams.
Among those squads is the Atlanta Hawks.
Nobody Thought About the Hawks
Being one of the biggest surprises of this season, the Atlanta Hawks rose from being the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference last season to enter the 2021 playoffs as the fifth-seeded team. Nobody predicted Trae Young’s Hawks to make it to the postseason. Nobody thought that a team with an interim coach in Nate McMillan would make a deep run into the playoffs.
And yet, Atlanta rose to the occasion.
In the playoffs, the Hawks silenced New York, scored an upset against the East-leading 76ers before stunning the Milwaukee Bucks in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals. Even with Young out for Game Four, the Hawks tied the series at 2-2.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, Trae Young’s absence was too much to handle as Atlanta dropped Game Five before losing Game Six at home, even with Young playing.
In four games against Giannis Antetokounmpo in the East Finals, Trae Young averaged 28 points, six assists, and three rebounds. He had 48 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds in Game One.
If anything, the playoff exit is a blessing for Atlanta. It will allow Young a longer time to heal.
Depth, McMillan Critical to Atlanta’s Hawks
What makes the future brighter for these Hawks is that the team promoted Nate McMillan as a full-time head coach. This move from the front office will mean that there will be continuity in the team’s improvement for next season and beyond.
This team has the depth in every position that can enable them to go on a deep playoff again. The roster has an improving Clint Capela, a sharpshooter in Bogdan Bogdanovic, a promising power forward in John Collins, and a proven veteran in Lou Williams. The Hawks have more than just a Trae Young.
Since the NBA returns to the regular 82-game schedule for next season, we’ll likely see fewer injuries, unlike what we saw this year. If Young can stay healthy for the long haul, that will help the Hawks reach new heights.