Hawks mailbag: What’s happening with the G League team?

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) fights for rebound position against Hawks forwards John Collins, left, and Cam Reddish. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Credit: Elise Amendola

Credit: Elise Amendola

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) fights for rebound position against Hawks forwards John Collins, left, and Cam Reddish. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Hey everyone! Hawks exhibition games begin Friday, and the NBA season begins Dec. 22, with the Hawks opening the next day. With nine new faces on the roster and the increased expectations this season, there’s much to discuss in this latest mailbag. Thanks to all who submitted questions.

Let’s dive in:

What’s going on with the G League team?

So, the Hawks are leaning toward not having their G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, participate in the proposed G League bubble, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The decision is based on the overall uncertainty regarding the season and its structure, and is not financially motivated, I have been told. As of now, it seems the G League season/schedule is still fluid as some teams reportedly have opted out while others would like to participate. Atlanta has been a rumored location for the bubble.

Two-way players can spend much more time with the parent team this season as the league allows for more roster flexibility because of the coronavirus. There’s a question of how those guys would be able to smoothly go back and forth between a G League bubble environment and their NBA team.

The Hawks’ decision is not final yet, but that’s how they’re leaning as of now.

How do we get tickets for the MLK game? Any news on this? ... Can I watch Hawks game on YouTube TV?

This is the plan for games: The team will not allow fans in State Farm Arena for the first five home games of the season, but expects to open the arena at 10% fan capacity on MLK Day, Jan. 18, vs. Minnesota. That means about 1,700 people will be let in. They’ll be taking several precautions, including spacing out fans in the seats and mandating masks.

The AJC has learned that priority will be given to season ticket holders, but expect an update on individual ticket sales as soon as next week.

Regarding how to watch the team: as of now, no, Fox Sports Southeast won’t be available on YouTube TV or Hulu, unfortunately. It will be available on AT&T TV and through various cable packages. Here’s a link to help determine where you can watch the Hawks based on your ZIP code.

Starting five + first off the bench. Go!

This is extremely hard to answer because on a team this deep, I think you’ll see quite a few varying lineups, and a lot of it will be situational.

Need a defense-first lineup? Time for Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn in the backcourt. Want to go blistering offense? Roll out John Collins and Gallinari together, with Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter in the mix, too. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce has said that although he’ll know his rotations, they’ll make adjustments as needed.

If it were up to me (hint: it’s not), I would probably start out with Young, Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter/Cam Reddish, depending on who has looked the most ready during training camp, Collins and Clint Capela. That small forward spot is the most up for grabs and should go to whichever of those guys has improved the most from last year and is the most deserving (Huerter could be in there, too). It’s hard for me to say this early, when media hasn’t been able to watch practice. But we’ll find out pretty fast once they start playing games.

Off the bench, I’d bring Rondo up to lead the second unit, Okongwu figures to back up Capela, same with Gallinari backing up Collins. Dunn obviously will get a decent chunk of playing time. Whichever of Hunter/Reddish/Huerter isn’t starting will be toward the front of the bench, and Tony Snell is a solid 3-and-D player who can come off the bench, too.

With nine new guys, it may take a while to figure out the right combinations for the second unit.

I know everyone thinks that the SF position is the most up for grabs, but I believe the SG spot isn’t completely a closed door. Do we believe Bogi 100% has that locked up?

He hasn’t been declared the starter, but it’s implied given the way the Hawks aggressively went after him in free agency and how he fits with Young as a backcourt partner.

I do think a healthy Huerter can compete for minutes, though (for the record, I spoke with him Tuesday and he said he is fully healthy, the healthiest he’s felt in a while). We weren’t able to see much of Huerter at his best last season, since he entered the season with a nagging knee injury which didn’t really clear up until late December or so, and then the season was cut short as he was starting to look like himself again.

Huerter can also play multiple positions, which will help him with playing time.

What do you envision us ending the regular season with as far as 3-point percentage?

One thing to keep in mind about the Hawks’ dreadful 3-point numbers (33.3%) last year? It wasn’t their main guys bringing down the average, even with Reddish taking months to get his shot right. Through ample roster turnover, most of the players who massively struggled shooting from distance are now gone.

Of the Hawks’ returning players, take the 3-point percentage from those receiving the bulk of the minutes (Young, Collins, Huerter, Hunter, Reddish) and you’ll get 36.6%, which is above the league average of 35.8%.

Add in guys like Gallinari (40.5% from 3 last year), Bogdanovic (37.2%) and Snell (40.2%) and you could see them crack the top 10 in 3-point shooting, provided guys stay healthy. Last year, the Mavericks were the No. 10 3-point shooting team at 36.7%, and the Jazz were No. 1 at 38%.

Who’s been your favorite interview so far this year?

This is tough, because most of the Hawks’ new players are excellent interviews. My three favorites probably are Solomon Hill, Gallinari and Bogdanovic. Hill is outgoing and insightful, Gallinari and Bogdanovic both are funny and very willing to talk to media, which is much appreciated.

With Bogdanovic, Dunn and Gallinari signing, who loses the most playing time between Huerter, Reddish, and Hunter?

Because they haven’t even played an exhibition game, it’s hard to say. As of now, I think it’s less a matter of quantifying exactly how minutes will get squeezed, and more a matter of understanding that players won’t be able to play through their struggles to the extent they were last season.

If the Hawks are trying to win, and they’ve got an option to sub in when a guy is underperforming, that’s what they’ll do.

Pierce has talked about how it’ll be important for players to understand sacrifice, when it comes to playing time, and focus on the team having success.

Who’s top candidate for Most Pleasant Surprise?

This won’t be a shocking answer, but I’ll go Reddish, because he was just starting to find his footing when the season was suspended. After a really, really bad start to the season, he had finally grown more comfortable shooting the ball, looked more in-control dribbling, came up with a few huge steals and was flashing his ability to be more aggressive.

Finding consistency with his shot and building on what he did defensively will be key for Reddish to take the next step.

Do you Brandon Goodwin could win the backup PG spot for the regular season?

It seems like the team views him as a third guard who adds depth, brings energy and can come off the bench at times for a few scoring bursts. Pierce has said that he appreciates Goodwin understanding his role and providing energy in practices.