After a brilliant offseason that saw them add Rajon Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, and Kris Dunn next to Trae Young and John Collins, the Atlanta Hawks were the trendy pick to make the biggest jump during the 2020-21 season. The team began the campaign at 4-1, and it appeared the Hawks were well on their way to establishing themselves as a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
However, after losing three straight games to inferior teams, the Hawks may have a big problem at the top of the roster.
The Hawks are led by Trae Young and John Collins
Trae Young is one of the best point guards in the NBA, while John Collins is a rising power forward. The two youngsters weren’t able to develop proper chemistry last season since Collins was suspended 25 games for PED use. However, the Hawks were confident Young and Collins would be able to mesh this season.
Against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 1, Young and Collins teamed up for a spectacular play when Young threw the ball off the backboard, and Collins slammed it home for the dunk. The Hawks defeated the mighty Nets by a final score of 114-96, and things looked very promising for Atlanta.
However, since defeating the Nets in Brooklyn, the Hawks have lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and Charlotte Hornets. Young, who made his first All-Star team last season, is averaging 25.9 points and 8.4 assists to begin the 2020-21 campaign. Collins, meanwhile, is putting up 17.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. The 23-year-old and the Hawks weren’t able to agree to a rookie-scale extension, so Collins will become a restricted free agent once the 2021 offseason period begins.
The Hawks, despite adding a lot of talent in free agency this past offseason, are only going to go as far as Trae Young and John Collins can take them. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the team’s two best players may not enjoy playing with each other.
John Collins has issues with the way Trae Young is playing
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, John Collins recently spoke up during a film session about how he’s not happy with how the Hawks are playing with Trae Young at the point guard spot. The high-flyer talked about how the team needs to get into offensive sets more quickly and limit early shot-clock attempts.
While Collins and Young didn’t get heated toward each other in the film session, the All-Star point guard “made it clear to others later that he strongly disagreed with Collins’ assessment,” per Amick. Hawks center Clint Capela, who was with the Houston Rockets when James Harden and Dwight Howard started to have beef, had a private discussion with Young about how he witnessed Howard and Harden’s relationship sour. The veteran big man clearly doesn’t want to see Young and Collins fight with each other for touches on the court.
Moving forward, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Trae Young-John Collins dynamic plays out. If the Hawks continue to lose games and Collins isn’t pleased with his usage rate on offense, Atlanta could have a clash of egos between Young and Collins.
The Hawks may have a coaching problem as well
The relationship between Trae Young and Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce continues to be an issue. While Young respects Pierce, he has questioned his in-game decisions at various times since he was hired back in 2018.
The Hawks have the talent to get to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. However, it appears their chemistry isn’t as good as some thought it was. If the rapport between Trae Young, John Collins, and Lloyd Pierce doesn’t improve, the Hawks could struggle again in 2020-21, and Pierce may lose his job.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.