Like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Atlanta Hawks experienced a disappointing start to the season. Both teams will look to get back on track Friday night at FedExForum in the home opener for the Grizzlies. I took some time with Brad Rowland (@BTRowland on Twitter) of Peachtree Hoops to discuss the Hawks’ new coach, their young talent, and catching up with an old friend of the Grizzlies.
What can we expect from Lloyd Pierce as a first time head coach?
Pierce enters with the reputation of a player development-focused coach and also one with strong defensive credentials. At the moment, Pierce will have a tall task in getting this particular collection of talent to defend but the development aspect is key, especially when it comes to helping a trio of rookie first round picks to improve alongside more established young veterans like John Collins and Taurean Prince.
What were your initial thoughts on the Luka Doncic-Trae Young trade, and how have they evolved since?
Candidly, it wasn’t a move that I would have executed on the Hawks side, but that also doesn’t mean that it’s a disaster. I evaluated Doncic as the No. 1 prospect in the class and, through that prism, nabbing him at No. 3 overall would have been a heist for Atlanta. Still, the Hawks seemingly had Doncic and Young (much) closer on their board than I did and Young’s upside is tantalizing.
The addition of a likely top-10 pick in 2019 definitely helps to even the equation and, beyond that, Young has probably exceeded expectations over the summer in terms of his polish. There is a long way to go to make an accurate evaluation of the deal but there is a rationale that makes sense for the Hawks.
What are your expectations for Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and Omari Spellman this year and beyond?
Young is the biggest part of Atlanta’s rebuild to this point and he’ll be given every opportunity to succeed with the ball in his hands this season. At the moment, his best asset is his passing and his ability to facilitate the offense, even with the obvious appeal of his long-range shooting and scoring upside. Young point guards take time to develop but Young should show flashes of brilliance as a rookie along with some ugly moments.
As for Spellman and Huerter, there is likely to be less involvement right away. Huerter was perhaps the best shooter in the draft but he missed the entirety of Summer League with a hand injury and that may have set him back. There is the ability there for Huerter to be a two-way player in the future but, for now, he profiles as a defensive liability that must get stronger both on and off the ball.
Spellman’s motor runs hot and the Hawks love that about him, but his defense is a problem right now and an intriguing offensive skill set isn’t enough to make up for that at the outset. I believe it was a reach at No. 30 overall but, on the bright side, there is a path to Spellman being a rotation player if he can capitalize on his offensive ceiling.
Are John Collins and Taurean Prince significant pieces of the Hawks’ future, and how can each take the next step in their development?
Collins and Prince don’t have superstar upside in my view but both have a clear path to relevance in the future.
Collins outpaced any rational expectation as a rookie, stuffing the stat sheet with high-end efficiency and better than advertised defensive tools. He is penciled in as the full-time power forward this season and, while that is a change from his rookie year, it should give the former Wake Forest star the opportunity to expand his offensive toolbox.
As for Prince, his defense took a major step back in year two but, in the same breath, he flashed much more in the way of offensive upside (particularly in creating for himself) than anticipated. He has the tools to be a two-way player at the 3 and, at the moment, that is a very valuable commodity in the NBA.
What impact has former Grizzly and fan favorite Vince Carter made with the Hawks, and where does he fit in the rotation this season?
Carter was a surprising addition in that his age and profile aren’t a natural fit for this rebuilding roster. With that said, everyone raves about his impact as a tutor to young players and Carter can still be a functional rotation piece (albeit at power forward) when the Hawks need that on-court impact. He is mostly there as a veteran voice in a locker room that needs one, but Carter is someone that has universal approval.
Bonus: If this is too difficult to answer, I understand. After his illustrious career with Atlanta, what is your fondest Carmelo Anthony memory?
The Melo era provided many memories but the day of his jersey request (and the subsequent delivery from the Hawks) will live forever.
Beyond an emotional few minutes when discussing Melo, it was a great time talking Atlanta Hoops with Brad. It appears Hawks fans have plenty to look forward too with their young talent. Thanks to Brad Rowland for taking the time to give us some great insight on the Hawks. Again, you can check his team’s awesome work over at Peachtree Hoops. As always, we hope you continue to enjoy our complete gameday coverage here at GBB.