As the May 14th NBA Draft Lottery slowly approaches, the Atlanta Hawks have never won the battle of the ping pong balls. But if the 2018-2019 campaign was a harbinger of things to come, the Hawks have a strong chance to change their fortunes for years to come. That starts with landing the first overall pick, even though Atlanta has a 10% chance of winning the Zion Williamson sweepstakes.
Atlanta is the only team in the lottery that best fits Zion’s skillset because they have a high-tempo style of play with space-and-pace players led by dynamic point guard and rookie of the year candidate Trae Young, shooters in Kevin Huerter and Taurean Prince, in addition to power forward John Collins. The Hawks also have big men that can shoot from the outside with Alex Len and Dwayne Dedmon. Then, once the expiring contract of Kent Bazemore comes off the books in 2020, drafting Zion could potentially create a team that could dominate headlines and marketing boardrooms for at least one decade. That would excite casual fans, arouse diehards and jerseys would fly off of sporting goods stores throughout the region.
The Hawks could have the makings of a team that would look eerily similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder team that made the NBA Finals in 2011. That team featured a young Kevin Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook that were difficult to guard. The similarities only begin there!
Atlanta led the Association in fastest pace of play last season. Moreover, the Hawks were second in the NBA in scoring after the All-Star Break. Their wide open, fast paced style fits Zion Williamson’s game like a glove, because he thrives on open court, transition situations. As Magic Johnson would like to say when he was a commentator, “let’s get out and run, get baskets in the open court.” Zion would undoubtedly be at the receiving end of Trae’s alley-oop passes, or blow by defenders his quick first step and ball handling abilities to create his own path to the basket.
Young was fourth in the NBA and second in the Eastern Conference in assists per game. He was second in the NBA in overall assists as a rookie. In addition, Trae led the NBA in assists on dunks. Most importantly, Trae Young played 81 of 82 games this season.
Lastly, the NBA is paying attention to Atlanta has the commercial firepower that rivals New York and Los Angeles. Since Tony Ressler purchased the team in 2015, the rebranding and rebuilding of the Hawks has flew under the national radar. However, it was not lost on the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver when he spent the Martin Luther King holiday in Atlanta.
Silver applauded the Hawks’ rebuild process because the team did not “tank” in order to get the highest draft pick possible.
“He’s got a very young team. Players are coming into this league increasingly at younger ages, and it requires a special coach to be able to manage those young players. I think he’s the perfect person for that,” said Silver of Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce. “I think he also understands that the role of a coach in this league these days goes well beyond X’s and O’s on the floor. He has to build character and help young men mature. And as I said, it’s early days, but all indications are that he’s doing a wonderful job.”
Add Zion to the mix, the Atlanta Hawks would undoubtedly ascend to the top of the NBA’s food chain in due time.