NBA Daily: Something Special Brewing in Atlanta

Despite having the third-worst record in the league, the Atlanta Hawks were extremely active before the trade deadline. Chad Smith explores the moves Atlanta made, and what they could potentially become over the next few years.

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Sports Editor
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The trade deadline is always a fascinating day in the NBA. While many fans anxiously await and salivate over any type of movement, players and coaches are on pins and needles. At a moment’s notice, any of them could find themselves residing in a different state surrounded by new teammates. For fans of the Atlanta Hawks, the deadline may seem like a blur.

The Hawks were a part of the massive 12-player deal that was agreed upon on Wednesday. Four teams were involved, two of them considered to be championship contenders. While Denver and Houston have aspirations of winning a title, it was the Hawks who made the biggest move in that deal by acquiring center Clint Capela.

It is no secret that Atlanta loves the pick-and-roll. Having an offensive wizard like Trae Young is a big reason for that as he has unlimited range and incredible vision. Better, Capela is one of the best divers in the league and should thrive alongside the All-Star point guard. In previous years, Houston featured him in screens with James Harden but they shied away from that this season. Capela sets excellent, wide screens and moves to the basket with great speed and leaping abilities.

As the prototypical roll man, Capela will be able to come out of his shell on offense. His defense will also fill a large void this young team has had, currently sitting 28th in defensive rating. Interior defense and rebounding have been major issues for Atlanta, who will love the shot-blocking presence that he provides. Being able to rebound and start a fast break will greatly benefit this young team that thrives in transition (third in pace).

The key to all of this will be Capela’s fit alongside John Collins. The two big men will be sharing the floor a lot, so finding the right balance between them is paramount. If Collins is able to continue stretching the floor vertically, it’ll open up things nicely for both of them. There were concerns in Indiana before the season as to how they would pair Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, but it has worked out well for them. Should Atlanta take the same approach, they could be building towards something special.

Now in his third season, Collins is putting up career numbers across the board. His 1.7 blocks per game this season are just below Capela’s (1.8) as both players rank inside the top ten in the league. Collins is shooting 36 percent from downtown while putting up nearly four attempts per game. Without the pressure of anchoring the interior defense, Collins should also be able to play more of a help defender role, jumping passing lanes and helping from the weak side of the floor.

Atlanta didn’t even have to give up much to land Capela in the deal. Their biggest asset they may have compromised was their cap space, as the center will earn around $17 million per year over the next three seasons. When you consider the weak free-agent class and the possible targets — Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell, Hassan Whiteside — the Hawks clearly made the best move possible. Acquiring Capela was great, but the Hawks were far from done making moves.

Dewayne Dedmon is making his way back to Atlanta after the Hawks struck a trade with the Sacramento Kings, shipping out Jabari Parker and Alex Len, whom they no longer needed. In addition to getting Dedmon back, they received two second-round picks. His contract is tough to swallow, but he is a solid backup center that is obviously well thought of in the locker room and within the organization. The Hawks sent a second-round pick to Portland in exchange for forward Skal Labissiere, a scratch-off ticket in 2020.

Dedmon spent two seasons in Atlanta in which he was a reliable contributor, averaging 10.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. His consistent production and ability to stretch the floor (37.2 percent three-point shooting) will make him a sensational fit next to whichever big man is on the court.

The core players in Atlanta are all 25 years old or younger. Collins, Capela, Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando have the Hawks looking like a team on the rise. Their rookies are promising and are learning valuable lessons from experienced professionals like Vince Carter and Jeff Teague.

With so much youth and potential, the Hawks don’t necessarily need an abundance of draft picks, especially second-round selections. The Brooklyn pick they dealt wasn’t as enticing as it once was, and they still own their own pick this summer. The only downside is this upcoming draft class isn’t very strong, but Atlanta already has enough young talent to mold.

Travis Schlenk and his team made multiple moves hours before the trade deadline. The results were two-fold, obviously improving the team by adding even more young talent was the main objective. By doing this, it also provides assurance to their franchise point guard that they are committed to surrounding him with all of the right pieces.

These moves won’t put Atlanta at the top of the Eastern Conference next season, but they are essential building blocks to transform this squad into a contender over the coming years.

Chad is a Basketball Insiders contributor based in Indianapolis.

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