Many teams in the Eastern Conference improved during the offseason.
The Celtics, who won the conference finals last season, added a versatile player when they acquired Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers. The Bucks, who were eliminated in the conference semifinals, locked up several of their key pieces and have maintained their depth. The Nets secured commitments from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to give it another go.
Some teams, such as the Cavaliers, swung big. They acquired Donovan Mitchell from the Jazz.
The Hawks will face some tough tests as they try to return to the playoffs. Atlanta is a young and hungry team, but the Eastern Conference is loaded.
2. How will Trae Young and Dejounte Murray share ball-handling duties?
Many have wondered how Murray and Young will coexist. Both players have been ball-dominant guards over the course of their careers, but now they will be able to take the pressure off each other.
The Hawks now have a backcourt tandem that averaged at least 20 points and nine assists last season. They will need to adjust, but the two can play off each other’s strengths. Both players ranked in the top 10 when it comes to attacking the basket, with Murray ranking fifth. Playing alongside Young will allow Murray to get downhill should defenses turn their attention to the 24-year-old guard.
Young should benefit from Murray’s ability to draw defenders inside. This would allow Young to lurk around the perimeter and knock down shots.
3. How much has the Hawks’ defense improved since last season?
The Hawks looked to reshape their defensive identity during the offseason. Murray’s addition gives the Hawks a head start on improving.
The Hawks finished last season with the fifth-worst defense in the NBA, and it was one of the contributing factors to the team’s early exit in the playoffs.
Murray will help the Hawks on the defensive glass. He averaged 8.3 rebounds last season.
The Hawks expect third-year forward Onyeka Okongwu to have an even bigger impact on the defensive boards and expect Jalen Johnson’s success in the G League to translate to the NBA.
Veterans Aaron Holiday and Frank Kaminsky, who signed during free agency, will provide some depth.
4. Has De’Andre Hunter made his case for a rookie extension?
De’Andre Hunter has had several bright moments during his three-year career with the Hawks. But injuries and inconsistency may have held the Hawks back from committing long term to the 24-year-old.
He is up for a rookie extension at the end of this season and will look to take the next step.
Hunter has potential. He is a career 43% shooter from the floor and 36% shooter from 3-point range in 139 games.
The Hawks have turned to Hunter to defend an opponent’s best perimeter player. When it came to contested 3-point shots, Hunter ranked 33rd in the league among players who have played 35 or more minutes.
So, though he has carved a role for himself over the last three years, Hunter still has to show the Hawks that he can be reliable by staying on the floor.
5. What could the Hawks’ rotation look like coming out of training camp?
The Hawks still have lots of decisions to make when it comes to their rotation, but the Hawks’ starting lineup is essentially set, with Young, Murray, Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela.
Murray will likely play point guard when Young sits, and Bogdan Bogdanovic will come in at shooting guard. Aaron Holiday will likely be the backup to Young and Murray when they are out.
Justin Holiday will likely back up Hunter, while there will be a battle at power forward between veteran Moe Harkless and Johnson.
Kaminsky provides versatility at power forward and center. That could open more minutes for Kaminsky because the Hawks would have more flexibility in the lineup.
At center, Okongwu will likely back up Capela.