Five Hawks storylines heading into training camp

Atlanta Hawks players, from left, Onyeka Okongwu, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Johnson, Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic walk to the bench at the end of the third quarter in Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Hawks players, from left, Onyeka Okongwu, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Johnson, Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic walk to the bench at the end of the third quarter in Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Training camp kicks off on Monday when the Hawks host media day. It comes just 24 hours before the team hosts its first official practice on Tuesday where the evaluations on how it will proceed into the season will kick into high gear.

The Hawks had a relatively eventful offseason, which saw them trade away one of their longest-tenured members.

They have plenty of other questions to answer, though before they open their season on the road against the Hornets on Oct. 25.

Here are five storylines heading into training camp:

1. How do the Hawks fill out their starting five?

This could be the biggest question for the Hawks as they move into a new era that kicking off with the hiring of new coach Quin Snyder and the eventual trade of John Collins.

Snyder told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week Wednesday that he viewed the opening in the starting lineup as less of a spot and more of an opportunity for the team to step up as a whole to fill Collins’ absence. But the Hawks do need someone to step into the open spot at power forward in the starting lineup.

The Hawks do have some flexibility as they evaluate their options in training camp.

They could elevate Jalen Johnson, who has been viewed as the heir presumptive, into the starting lineup and lean on his athleticism. They could also look to Saddiq Bey, who is set to become a restricted free agent in 2024, to help them space the floor.

2. How different will the Hawks system look with Snyder at the helm?

The Hawks hired Snyder with just 20 games left in the regular season. So, the new coach couldn’t make too many changes to the Hawks, who were focused on making it into the postseason.

Now, Snyder has had seven months to get his feet under him, as well as begin putting his touches on how things will run. Snyder started to plant the seeds last season as he tried to hammer in good habits when it comes to spacing so that it could free up lanes for guys to drive inside. Of course, that spacing also gave guys like Bey and Bogdan Bogdanovic more opportunities to knock shots down.

Of course, Snyder will use training camp to adapt his principles to the personnel he has.

3. How will Trae Young-Dejounte Murray pairing take a step forward?

Last season, many wondered how Murray and Young would coexist as two ball-dominant guards. While there were of how the two could thrive in a system, they also needed more time to work through the kinks.

Now, heading into their second year as backcourt partners, the two are committed to making their pairing work. The Hawks also showed their commitment when they offered Murray a four-year $120 million extension in July.

Both guards have had constant communication with not only each other during the offseason but they’ve also had plenty of discussions with coaches.

“I think as much as it is a mistake in my mind to evaluate them or a team based on one year, it’s the same logic that would make you evaluate them on the second year,” Snyder told the AJC on Wednesday. “And although, like I mentioned a reset of some sort with the group, I think, for both (Young and Murray) their growth isn’t going to be linear.

“There’s gonna be all those moments where it’s harder, and those are the times that you get through it, whatever it is, and I think they’re both committed to doing that. I think our team is committed to doing that. Now, that commitment always gets tested but I think you go into it with more understanding and maybe more determination.

4. How do the Hawks improve their defense?

The Hawks finished the regular season with the ninth-worst defense in the NBA after they made some moves last season that were expected to improve it. This season, Snyder looks for the team to have a collective commitment to improving on that side of the ball.

The team will continue to lean on forward De’Andre Hunter, who it often matched up against an opponent’s best player. It will also expect more out of Murray, who fell a little short last season of what many expected him to be on the defensive end.

The Hawks added a savvy veteran in Patty Mills, who is a pesky defender and they continue to have players like Johnson, fourth-year center Onyeka Okongwu and veteran center Clint Capela to continue making an impact in the front court.

5. Where do the Hawks stand in the Eastern Conference heading into the season?

The Eastern Conference has a bit of an uncertain landscape and the Hawks will want to get off on the right foot. Many teams in the East made moves that shook things up and made the path to the NBA Finals all the more difficult.

The Bucks made a splash last Wednesday when they acquired Damian Lillard from the Trail Blazers as part of three-team deal that included Jrue Holiday heading to Portland. Holiday did not leave the East for long as the Celtics acquired the two-time all-star.

The Sixers, despite having the reigning league MVP in the fold, continue to be shrouded with uncertainty as they navigate how they’ll move forward with or without James Harden.

The Hawks will face some tough tests as they try to return to the playoffs but the changes they’ve made over the last seven months have invigorated them.