Season Preview

2023-24 NBA Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

Published October 20, 2023, 11:00 AMPolo Bustamante

How far can Trae Young and the Hawks fly this season?

The NBA is back! Just like your favorite superhero story, the league brings fun, entertainment, and a lot of uncanny subplots to unpack. That’s why NBA.com Philippines decided to preview the new season comic-book style. We pick out fantastic characters that will take the stage and new amazing arcs to watch out for. Bang! Pow! Boom! Let’s go!

What’s their superpower?

Surprisingly, for a team led by a well-regarded shooter such as Trae Young, the Atlanta Hawks ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of 3-point attempts. As a team, they launched 30.5 triples per game (28th), accounting for only 33.1 percent of their shot profile (30th). The Hawks made a living off midrange shots.

Now advanced analytics has demonized the midrange shot but when a team is hitting shots from that range at a prolific rate, it can be a very dangerous weapon. For instance, Atlanta was second in the league in shots attempted from 10 feet to just before the 3-point line. They attempted nearly a quarter of their shots from that range. From 10 feet to 16 feet, the Hawks shot 48.6 percent (2nd). From 16 feet to just before the 3-point line, they hit 43.8 percent of their shots (6th). The Hawks ranked seventh in the league in offensive rating so scoring clearly wasn’t a problem for them.

Atlanta doesn’t have shooters in the traditional sense of the word. What they have are players who are comfortable stepping into their shot in rhythm, no matter where they are on the court. Analytics be damned.

What’s their kryptonite?

The Hawks finished the season with a 42-40 record. They scored 116.6 points per game but also gave up 116.3 points per game, good enough for a plus-0.3 net rating. They shot 48.3 percent from the field but also allowed teams to shoot at a 48.7 percent clip. Their longest winning streak last season was five games and their longest losing streak stood at four games.

Do you notice the balance of all those numbers? That only means one thing, the Hawks were a mediocre and terribly inconsistent team. Even with the talent that they had on the roster, they just couldn’t put it all together. There would be games where Young and Dejounte Murray would play well but their bigs would struggle, then the next day, the wings would step up but Young or Murray would have a rough game.

That mediocrity prevented them from building any kind of momentum last season, eventually getting booted out in the first round once again.

Who is their biggest hero?

When Murray was brought in via trade last season, there were a lot of questions surrounding his fit next to Atlanta's entrenched franchise player, Young. After one full season together, Young continues to prove that he’s Batman, but Murray has also shown that he’s a fantastic Robin.

Heading into the next season, this dynamic duo is looking to build on the success of their first season together. Young remains to be the team’s engine. He will drive the Hawks with his incredible scoring and playmaking skills. 

Murray is the glue guy that the team needs to fill in the gaps. He can create opportunities as a secondary playmaker or in some cases, the lead creator with Young playing off the ball. He’s a silky smooth midrange operator, opening up swaths of space for his partner in the perimeter. Most importantly, he’s a ball hawk who can take on tougher defensive assignments away from Young’s plate.

Who is their biggest villain?

On the outside, Clint Capela might seem like a villain with his long arms, tough exterior, and non-stop motor. But he’s really not. In fact, he won last season’s Sekou Smith Award which recognizes a player’s professionalism with the media.

Capela is the wall that stands in the way of opposing players and Atlanta’s basket. He’s been that guy for the Hawks since 2020. Unfortunately, now Capela is also standing in the way of the development of the young bigs in Atlanta. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson, Saddiq Bey, and DeAndre Hunter are all primed for a breakout season. With John Collins out of the way, that opens up some time for those young guns. What they need now is more runway to expand their wings and the only way the Hawks can give them that is if they ship Capela away.

How does their story (season) play out?

It feels like the championship window of the Hawks closed two seasons ago. Even with the addition of Murray, it still seems like the team is on the back foot when it comes to keeping in step with the rest of the conference. Contenders have gotten better, while young teams are rapidly improving.

The Hawks are being sloshed around by the torrent of change out in the East. And when the tide settles, they’ll most likely find themselves back where they were. Right in the thick of a play-in battle, primed for another first-round exit.