The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the NBA’s rising teams over the last couple of seasons.
In the 2020-21 campaign, they experienced some unexpected success, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference and upsetting the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers to reach the East finals.
Not too shabby for a team that many didn’t even expect to reach the playoffs.
This past season, they made the playoffs again, this time by virtue of surviving the play-in tournament, only to get waxed by the Miami Heat in the first round.
But now the Hawks will have sharper beaks and talons heading into the new season, as they have acquired Dejounte Murray, a young and versatile All-Star guard.
Will they fly high and make some serious noise in the playoffs again, or will the rest of the conference be able to keep them in a locked cage?
Atlanta Will Have A Dynamic Backcourt
Trae Young has already been one of the NBA’s best guards of late, and he put up 28.4 points and 9.7 assists a game en route to an All-NBA Third Team selection.
He also improved his 3-point shooting, hitting 38.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc in 2022.
But now he will have quite a backcourt partner in Murray.
Murray can score, as evidenced by his 21.1 points per game this past season, even though he’s not a great outside shooter.
But he’s very quick and explosive, and he has the ability to occasionally throw down big dunks.
Dejounte Murray tomahawk dunk 😳pic.twitter.com/TVnmxlBjsn
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 1, 2021
The former San Antonio Spur is a great passer who put up 9.2 assists a game, and his 8.3 rebounds per game will help the Hawks finish higher than 16th in defensive rebound percentage, as they did in 2022.
But Murray has quick hands, and he used them to register 2.0 steals per game this past year.
His defensive ability will help the Hawks improve arguably their biggest weakness.
“Dejounte Murray can’t play defense” 🤡 pic.twitter.com/6D3rKLT7GS
— Bala 💫⭐️ (@BalaPattySZN) March 9, 2022
The Hawks Must Improve On ‘D’
In the 2021-22 campaign, Atlanta was just 26th in defensive rating, and that figure must improve big time this coming season.
One area in which it struggled was in forcing turnovers, as it was 27th in opponents’ turnovers.
The presence of Murray will give the Hawks some much-needed help in that department.
Putting It All Together, What’s A Reasonable Expectation?
In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics are clearly the class of the bunch, as they have accounted for the last two NBA Finals appearances.
As of now, the Hawks appear to be in that “pretender” category along with the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, and possibly the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If things go well, Atlanta can definitely make it to the second round of the playoffs in 2023, but anything more than that will be a very tough task.