We Got Our First Look At The New Hawks Big 3 Over The Weekend And They Appear To Be Fun As Hell
Remember when the Hawks traded for Dejounte Murray? Tell me that doesn't feel like a lifetime ago. In reality, it was only 33 days but anything that happened pre-KD trade demand doesn't even feel like the same offseason. It was our first true sign that the Spurs were formally entering their name into the tank for Victor Wembanyama considering Dejounte is only 25 years old and was their best player. It wasn't even really a contract thing either considering Murray is signed for two more seasons (this year + next).
When the Hawks made this trade I think most people were waiting for the John Collins shoe to drop next. Outside of Myles Turner, I'm not sure there is a player who is "almost" traded more than John Collins. The second after he signed his 5/125M extension last year it feels like he's been thrown into every trade rumor you could find. Despite all that he's still on the roster and after seeing these three play together in Jamal Crawford's Pro Am over the weekend I won't fault any Hawks fan out there for being very, very excited.
Now I know what you're saying. Greenie, this is a Pro Am. Of course NBA All Star level players are going to look incredible, big deal. OK Kyle Kuzma, calm down
It's not that serious. You should treat these games the exact same way you should be treating Summer League games. Anything positive you see you can absolutely put stock in for the regular season, and anything negative you see you can immediately ignore because these games are fake and don't mean anything.
Tell me those highlights weren't enticing. After a down year coming off their ECF run, the Hawks certainly have some things to prove this upcoming season and the success of those three together will obviously play a huge factor in how their season looks. Anyone who has watched the Hawks during the Trae Era will tell you one of their biggest issues was on the defensive end of the floor. Not really in terms of rim protection because Clint Capela is pretty legit in that department, but guys like Collins and Young aren't exactly going to make an All NBA Defensive team anytime soon. De'Andre Hunter can defend, but I feel like he's never actually on the court. That's partly why I'm so excited to see Dejounte in this mix. He immediately helps their perimeter defense and could in theory help when it comes to supporting Trae up top, and with an improved defense should come more transition opportunities. You saw how that looked in those highlights. Last year the Hawks ranked in the 86th percentile in transition offense last year. Now imagine how that could look with an improved defense, especially at the guard spot.
Why I think this experiment could work is largely because I think you can play Trae off ball. Dejounte isn't the best outside shooter, so you're better off having him spend a heavy amount of his minutes initiating the offense. He's so good at attacking the midrange/paint off the dribble, I certainly wouldn't mind having Trae as a catch & shoot guy. Just so you know, Trae shot 48.1% from three last year in his limited catch & shoot situations. He had an eFG% of 71.3%. That's a weapon.
As intoxicating as the offensive potential might be, let's not lose focus here. The #1 thing that will ultimately decide the Hawks fate is their team defense. That shit stunk in 2022. I'm talking 26th in the NBA. In the playoffs, they were 12th of 16. In today's NBA if you want to truly contend, you have to be able to get stops. Consistently too. Think of what propelled their run in 2021, it wasn't their offense of Trae scoring. It was because they were right around a top 10 defense (12th) over the final 38 games (27-11). Before that run? They were 23rd. Their offense and shooting is good enough to the point where if they could find a way to get back to that 10-12th ranking defensively, this team can be legit threat in the East. Just look at the teams at the top of the conference, teams like MIA/MIL/BOS are all elite defensively. It's no surprise those three had the top 3 seeds and the 3 highest point differentials.
But if you are a Hawks fan and you were looking for some offseason propaganda to get excited about the upcoming season, my guess is those highlights do the trick. This group should without a doubt be part of your League Pass rotation, especially if that Pro Am is any indication of what's on the horizon.