Memphis hosts Atlanta tonight for their final meeting of the 2019-2020 season, and the Hawks will be looking for some measure of “revenge” after Memphis dropped a 39-point beatdown on Atlanta on March 2nd.
Ja Morant had just 13 points that night while Trae Young led things for Atlanta with 19 of his own in the first meeting between the two budding superstars.
1. Trae Young has been a different player this season. What has led to this growth as a player?
Young has made a number of strides this season. First, his shooting stabilized at the level that the Hawks always envisioned. He probably isn’t going to be a 40 percent three-point shooter given the difficulty of his attempts, but Young is stretching the defense in a mighty way with his gravity. From there, he’s been more efficient on two-point shots, attacking the rim and drawing fouls at an elite rate. His passing was elite from his first moment on an NBA court but, in rounding out the edges that he struggled with at times during his rookie season, “the leap” happened.
2. Same question, but about another young player having a big year: John Collins.
Collins was already incredibly efficient on the offensive end in his first two seasons, but he has been even more efficient in year three. A lot of that can be traced to huge strides with his jump shot, particularly from three-point range, and he has developed a compact, repeatable stroke that is working for him. Along with his awesome offensive contributions, Collins has taken big leaps as a defender. He isn’t elite by any means, but Collins is now protecting the rim effectively from the weak side, playing with more effort and generally displaying awareness. He has come a long way and, as usual, defense is the part of the game that few people notice.
3. After starting the season 5-16 at home, Atlanta has won 8 of their last 11 at home. Why has the team gotten so much better at home?
I think it’s a combination of a number of things. First, the young guys are just better than they were early in the season. That is especially true for someone like Cam Reddish and, provided Dewayne Dedmon is healthy, that is a big upgrade on what they had at center most of the way. From there, young teams just play better at home and the schedule has been pretty favorable, including some moments where top-tier players from opposing teams didn’t play in Atlanta. Overall, the Hawks are just playing better basketball (with the exception of Monday’s dud against Memphis) and that is the biggest factor.
4. Clint Capela. What does his future in Atlanta look like? Is he there for the long haul or as a potential trade piece for later?
I think Capela is a long-term piece. It remains to be seen how it will work since he hasn’t played, but they acquired him for the future more than the present. He has three years remaining on his contract and, if he proves to be the fit they believe he’ll be, Capela will be around for a while. Defensively, he is a massive upgrade on what the Hawks had at center and they need that high-end defender at the center spot. On offense, he’s a great fit with Young in the pick-and-roll and Collins’ growth as a shooter makes that 4-5 fit more palatable.
5. What has the presence of Vince Carter meant to this young team?
Everyone loves Vince. That is the best way I can say it. He hasn’t played all that well this season and, in short, he probably shouldn’t play as much as he has on a team that is trying to win. With that said, he is invaluable in the locker room and is someone that Lloyd Pierce inherently trusts. They put his locker next to Trae Young’s for a reason and he has had a major impact on the young players. His on-court stuff is (very) secondary and they know that.
Big thanks to Brad for taking the time to answer these questions. Check him and the crew out at Peachtree Hoops for all things Hawks. Plus, Brad does a ton of other sports writing as well. If you love basketball (which you probably do if you’re reading this) or Atlanta Braves baseball he’s a must follow on social media.