Hawks taking advantage of healthy roster in training camp

Hawks players, left to right, Trae Young, Clint Capela, Dejounte Murray and De’Andre Hunter poses for a photograph during the Hawks Media Day on Monday, October 2, 2023, in Atlanta.
Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Hawks players, left to right, Trae Young, Clint Capela, Dejounte Murray and De’Andre Hunter poses for a photograph during the Hawks Media Day on Monday, October 2, 2023, in Atlanta. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

As the Hawks get ready for the coming NBA season, they have wanted to have a high level of competition to help them evaluate how they settle on their lineups. With everyone on the roster healthy heading into training camp, the Hawks have gotten plenty of energy out of everyone to run those highly competitive practices.

The Hawks have three days of practice under their belt, all packed full of sharpening their skills and learning the concepts that coach Quin Snyder wants to put in place.

“I really feel that having everybody healthy, ready to go with the energy, with the new concepts that we have offensively, defensively has been really great,” Hawks center Clint Capela said. “Energy was there on offense and defense, a lot of intensity. So I like it. It’s fun.”

Part of the fun includes Snyder’s call for unselfishness in how the team operates on offense and defense. The Hawks coach looks to get as much spacing and movement of the ball as possible to create as many scoring options as possible.

One of those ways includes how much the centers are involved as facilitators, and that has caused Capela to light up as he takes on more responsibility. For Capela, it will look a little different than when Onyeka Okongwu checks in because the veteran center will play the majority of his minutes with guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.

“I feel like with the offense that we have, I’m more in a way where I can be a facilitator,” Capela said. “They call it the ‘link.’ So I’m trying to be the link offensively knowing that when I play, usually I have Trae (Young) and DJ (Murray). So it’s a different lineup and whenever Onyeka is. But I think I can definitely help in that in some situations without taking away what I do because I still want to dunk the ball and rebound. But obviously, during the five-on-five, I had a couple assists. So, I showed that I can do it.”

As the Hawks continue to evaluate the skills of their personnel and how best to utilize them, they also will look to get some clarity on how they can round out their starting unit.

The team trading John Collins in July opened a hole at power forward. Collins gave the Hawks a huge boost on defense, particularly providing Capela with support on the weak side.

Snyder has said that the team will have to collectively fill that hole on defense, and many players reiterated that Monday at the Hawks’ media day.

“It’s the whole team, whoever’s on the floor, which is five guys at all times and everybody has to be on the same page,” Murray said. “It’s a pride thing at the end of the day, so you know, for where we want to go, defense is the No. 1 thing, and then everything else will fall in place.”

While the Hawks need to get better as team on defense, the question of who will start at power forward remains to be seen. Fans may get a glimpse when the Hawks host their open practice Monday when they can see who practices alongside the presumptive starters in the scrimmages. They’ll have a better idea when the Hawks host the Cavaliers on Tuesday for the team’s first exhibition game.

The Hawks have plenty of options for how they choose to approach the vacancy, with general manager Landry Fields naming Jalen Johnson, Saddiq Bey and De’Andre Hunter as potential candidates Monday. Fields pointed out that all three have some versatility and can slide between small and power forward. He added that the team liked the progress that Johnson, who enters his third season in the NBA, has made.

But the Hawks, whose theme has focused on building habits to become a consistent team, look to keep the level of competition high.

“I think the consistent thing is, we just need to work,” Snyder said. “And there’s nothing that takes the place of that. There’s no shortcuts. Wes Matthews has had us started saying ‘stack days.’ So we just need to stack some days together, the right kind of days where we’re not just out here, but we’re out here purposely working and really, it’s more than working it’s training.”