While it's been a few years since the Atlanta Hawks have sniffed the playoffs, a flurry of moves at the beginning of NBA free agency shows Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk is going all in on accelerating the team's return to contention.
Things really got rolling last week when the team used the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on USC center, Onyeka Okongwu. While his name may not be at the top of the list for basketball fans, Okongwu brings exactly what the Hawks need this year, defense. In his only season at USC, he averaged 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He also has developed well as a pick-and-roll threat on lobs/dunks. His defensive prowess outweighs his offensive deficiencies and he could be a contributor in year one.
But Schlenk was getting started with his roster rebuild. As the week progressed, all eyes turned to free agency as the Hawks had plenty of cap space if they wanted to use it. The first big splash the Hawks made was signing free agent forward Danilo Gallinari to a three-year contract worth approximately $61.5 million, his agent told ESPN.
Gallinari is a 6'10" power forward capable of scoring with the ball in his hand. Last season he averaged 18.7 points per game while shooting 41 percent from behind the 3-point-line. His offensive game should give Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young a much-needed relief from having to carry the offensive load for the Hawks in every game. Still, Gallinari is not known for his defense, which would be where Okongwu and Clint Capela come into play as defensive stoppers.
And speaking of defense, two of the Hawks' signings over the weekend won't create splashy headlines but give the team a big spark on the defensive end. The team agreed to a deal with guard Kris Dunn for two-years worth $10 million. Dunn is arguably one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, but has struggled offensively. He's a career 42 percent shooter and just 31 percent from beyond the three-point line. Still, his defense and ability to cover multiple positions makes him a key factor as the Hawks try to make the playoffs.
On the subject of playoffs, another signing the Hawks put together was veteran guard Rajon Rondo. Fresh off a championship with the Lakers, Rondo signed for two-years and $15 million. His regular season game has been questioned, but he's undoubtedly a defensive stopper.
The Hawks may have saved their biggest splash for their final signing. While not official until Tuesday, the team agreed to an offer sheet for Sacramento Kings restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovich. The Kings' guard is a star on the offensive end of the court and would provide immediate assistance to Trae Young. He averaged 15.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Kings last year and has shot 37 percent from behind-the-line over three seasons. He carries a career true shooting percentage of 55 percent and hits approximately 81 percent from the free throw line.
Assuming the team avoids injuries, it's easy to see what the Hawks could put together with some of the players they've added this offseason. For example, Atlanta could trot out a backcourt of Trae Young and Kris Dunn with Rajon Rondo and Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench to keep an offensive threat on the court at all times, plus they still have Kevin Huerter to rotate through. At the forward positions, the team has De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Gallinari, and John Collins to push through. Finally, at center the Hawks roll with Capela and Okwongu manning the middle.
The team has built a solid roster to surround Trae Young and give Hawks fans hope for a playoff run this season. Oh, and depending on how the contracts are structured, could still have salary cap space remaining after all the free agent acquisitions.