The postseason ended in disappointment for the Atlanta Hawks, as a 4-1 series defeat to the Miami Heat saw them crash out earlier than had been expected.
Injury problems have certainly disrupted the team and robbed them of key players at vital times, but who were their best players during the regular season?
Young had a stellar college career before joining the NBA in 2018, and making himself right at home in the pro league by scoring lots of points and making it into the All-Rookie First Team. The 2021-22 season saw him reach a new franchise record by making 25 points in 17 games in a row. This included a career-high of 56 against the Portland Trail Blazers. As a reward for his outstanding performances, Trae was selected to play in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game for the second time.
This season also saw him mark the 10th time in his NBA career that he scored at least 40 points and 10 points in a single game, which put him in 9th place in the all-time list for this feat. He added to that by becoming the first player this season to score 40 or more on back-to-back nights.
A sign of how good Trae Young was in the regular season can be seen in the fact that he was only the second player in the history of the NBA to lead in both points and assists in the season. The only other player to have managed this was Tiny Archibald in 1972-73.
Atlanta fans were bitterly disappointed to see him fail to light up the postseason. Trey had a disappointing time in the playoffs, as Miami worked out how to stop him from dominating the games against them.
Before that, he was among the favorites, according to bookmakers, for MVP of the season. Check out how the odds look right now: https://www.bovada.lv/nba-betting
The Swiss international center joined the Hawks in 2020 from the Houston Rockets and has contributed consistently to results since then. Injury problems caused him to miss most of the postseason games, which summed up the bad luck that Atlanta has had to deal with this season and that they will be hoping is now over.
His hyperextended knee should be fine for next season and his link-up play with Trae Young will be vital to their chances of getting to the playoffs again. However, it’s Capela’s defensive work that makes him most important to the team and what they’ve missed badly when he was out.
Collins has played at power forward for the Hawks since joining them in the 2017 draft, and in August last year his importance to the team was underlined with the fact that he signed a new five-year contract with a value of $125 million.
He played in a total of 54 games in the regular season just ended, starting all but one of them. Injuries also disrupted him in the playoffs, as he admitted to playing despite not feeling 100% right for some of the games. Before that, an average of 16.8 points meant that he was having arguably his best season to date.
Some experts suggest that the Hawks should trade Collins to the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer, to bring in a lot of new faces. However, the loss of his defensive abilities would be a big blow so it’s a decision that wouldn’t be taken lightly.
After playing for the Virginia Cavaliers at college and impressing enough to be named the best NABC defensive player in 2019, De’Andre Hunter ended up at the Hawks after being picked by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019 draft.
The small forward was impressive in the 2021-22 regular season, playing 53 games and being regarded as arguably their most important player. He also shone in the playoffs by grabbing his career-high of 35 points and 11 rebounds against the Miami Heat.
This summer promises to be interesting for the Hawks, as they have the option of extending Hunter’s rookie deal. If they can keep him clear of the injuries that ruined his chances of impressing in the 2020-21 playoffs, he could prove to be another vital element that helps Atlanta to move forward to better times.
One for the Future – Jalen Johnson
Playing as a small forward, Jalen Johnson had an impressive time at college with the Duke Blue Devils with the status of a consensus five-star recruit. Johnson then joined the Hawks in the 2021 NBA draft as one of the best small forwards in the 2020 class.
He quickly made an impact in his rookie season, although his minutes were fairly limited overall. We can hope to see the best of him in the 2022-23 season, as he spent a lot of his rookie season with the College Park Skyhawks in the NBA G League, in an effort to play more and hone his skills.