The Atlanta Hawks Had a Nice Offseason But Didn't Address Their Biggest Problem

Liam McKeone
Trae Young
Trae Young / Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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The Atlanta Hawks want to make the damn playoffs. That much has been made clear as the franchise acquired two established veterans for big money this offseason, trading for Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic, signing both to big-money extensions. In tandem with the midseason trade last year for Clint Capela, the Hawks clearly believe they have their core of the future and aren't interested in any more lottery picks.

In a conference that is comically weak at the bottom, the Hawks certainly have a good chance of doing just that. They may have even squeaked in to the eight seed last year if the season didn't get shut down. This team was not demonstrably worse than the Orlando Magic or Washington Wizards or Brooklyn Nets sans Kyrie or KD. Adding two deadly shooters to the same team (along with a good young center in 2020 No. 6 overall pick Onyeka Okongwu) means that, barring injuries or a suspension like John Collins' PED situation early last year, the Hawks will be in the postseason for the first time since their whole team won Player of the Month.

That's all well and good. A team can only lose for so long, and the Hawks have a budding star in Trae Young, which is the point of having high draft picks-- to find players like that. But for all the acquisitions they made to improve their team this offseason, they didn't fix their biggest issue: perimeter defense.

The Hawks were atrocious defensively last season. They had the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA, ahead of only the Wizards (who gave up nearly 150 points in regulation, lest we forget) and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It will be difficult for the Hawks to ever be better than average defensively when they have Young playing over 30 minutes a game. He's just too small to make an impact on that end. But in order to do anything more than qualify for the postseason and subsequently get steamrolled by a team like the Milwaukee Bucks, they need to improve considerably on that end of the floor.

Bogdanovic and Gallinari, for all they offer, do nothing to accomplish that goal. Bogdanovic is big at 6-foot-6, but his wingspan is below average and he doesn't have the strength to hang with most NBA shooting guards. Gallinari can hold his own against ground-bound power forwards, but that's about it. They're both below-average defenders most nights and top out at average in the best of times.

Atlanta is likely banking on a year's worth of improvement defensively from De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, the two wings they took to complement Young. That's a reasonable assumption to make, but it's a tall order to ask a pair of sophomores to solve the team's defensive issues. Okongwu projects to be a versatile defensive center, but he's a rookie who won't enjoy a six-month runway to the season like first-year players in years past. The Hawks do not need a marginal improvement to become adequate defensively. They're closer to needing a complete overhaul.

The team wasn't going to solve all those issues in one offseason. But loading up on offensive firepower while ignoring the other end of the court is a short-term solution to their playoff drought that doesn't exactly set them up for long-term success. Atlanta will be good enough for the postseason in 2021, and that's all they want right now. Hopefully their short-sightedness doesn't come back to bite them.

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