The Atlanta Hawks need everything and need nothing. On one hand, this is a loaded roster—they have an all-world guard duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray yet also legitimately go ten deep and even struggle to carve out minutes for young studs like Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin. On the other, they aren’t especially good; since their shocking Eastern Conference Finals run in 2021, the Hawks have been the eighth seed in each of the last two years and have won a grand total of three games in the playoffs. As such, the Hawks enter the offseason rich with possibilities. Armed with the 15th pick in the NBA Draft, the Hawks should target Jordan Hawkins, a ready-made starter who will instantly elevate their offense.
Hawkins has a laser, a strap, a ratchet. Whatever you want to call it, he has it. Arguably the best shooter in this year’s NBA Draft, Hawkins led UCONN to a national championship without even really dribbling. Averaging 16.2 points per game, Hawkins was deservedly a member of both the All-Big East First Team and the NCAA All-Tournament First Team.
Despite being the focus of every single one of UCONN’s opponents, Jordan Hawkins had a ludicrous shooting season; he was the only underclassman in the nation to shoot 38 percent from three on more than 250 attempts. Even more impressive than the sheer quantity of Hawkins’ shooting though, is the quality. It’s relatively easy to hit standstill, wide open threes; it’s another thing entirely to nail threes as you slingshot around screens with defenders in your face. Like all truly elite movement shooters, Hawkins commands constant defensive attention whether he has the ball or not. The simple act of Hawkins coming off a screen sends defenses into panic mode, setting off a multi-man scramble to prevent him from finding open space.
For the Hawks, this quality is especially important. With Young and Murray dominating the ball, the Hawks need to draft auxiliary players who can provide offensive value through their spacing and movement. Alongside Young, Hawkins will never have the opportunity to run pick-and-rolls or iso against his man and that’s completely fine; that’s not Hawkins’ game anyways.
In fact, Hawkins is arguably best alongside someone like Young, providing a countervalent element to the attack. When Young has the ball, stopping him is a five-man effort; when Hawkins doesn’t have the ball, all five defenders must track him. As a result, a Young-Hawkins partnership forces opponents into a state of ruinous ambivalence; teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to contain both threats at the same time.
To wit, the Hawks have seen this firsthand with Kevin Huerter, who they traded away last summer and desperately missed all season. Despite the fact that this year’s Hawks were considerably more talented than last year’s iteration, they failed to reach the same offensive heights, falling from the third best offensive rating in the league to the seventh best.
Admittedly, this isn’t a huge difference, but it’s the difference between being great and merely very good. The decline can be largely attributed to the fact that the Hawks stopped making shots. In 2021-2022, the Hawks shot 37.4 percent from three as a team (the second best mark in the NBA) and sank 12.9 threes per game (the 11th most); in 2022-2023, they shot just 35.2 percent (21st best) and hoisted up the third fewest threes in the league, ahead of only the Bulls and Pelicans.
Accordingly, Jordan Hawkins can immediately reinvigorate a Hawks’ offense that desperately needs extra juice; the Hawks must rely on their offense to an uncommon degree because their defense is cruddy and unreliable. Under new coach Quin Snyder who was hired midseason, the Hawks tried to implement Snyder’s patented motion offense but didn’t have the time to fully integrate it.
Now, with a full offseason, Snyder’s vision should be on full display next year. To wit, Snyder has brought on pedigreed assistants such as Mike Brey (long time Notre Dame coach) and Igor Kokosov, two of the most celebrated offensive minds in basketball. Trae Young is good enough that he can conjure a top ten offense from whole cloth, but the next step in his evolution is finding ways to function within an actual, coherent scheme like Snyder, Brey and Kokosov are presumably installing.
In this sense, selecting Jordan Hawkins with the 15th pick in the NBA Draft would represent a bridge between the Hawks’ present and their future. Hawkins is a very good player in his own right (again, he’s a monstrous shooter), but his importance to the Hawks will ultimately be felt in the way that his individual goodness redounds throughout the rest of the team.
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