The Atlanta Hawks opened their 2021-22 NBA season with a merciless pounding of the Dallas Mavericks to a score of 113-87. It was one of the league’s most anticipated matches heading into the season as it featured two franchise players in Trae Young for the Hawks and Luka Doncic for the Dallas Mavericks. It’s safe to say that this is one of those games that Doncic would not want to revisit shortly.
Predicting how a team will play after only one regular season game in October is a fool’s errand. The best-laid plans can often be undone by the unlikeliest of events. Injuries could happen, chemistry could be altered and the Atlanta Hawks simply could not be good enough.
But after the shellacking of the hapless Dallas Mavericks, there are things to place inside the back pocket and look back when the season has run its course.
Here are a few things to glean from the Atlanta Hawks’ impressive home opener win against new coach Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks:
3) The Atlanta Hawks’ bench is going to be really solid
Gorgui Dieng, Cam Reddish, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, Lou Williams and Delon Wright are names that will probably not start on most teams, but these are solid contributors who can be counted on to do their jobs.
Lou Williams, the three-time Sixth Man of the Year awardee, did not even get to spend a second of time on the court as the Atlanta Hawks bench mob already got the job done. More likely than not, head coach Nate McMillan will call on Williams at some point this season. He is easily one of the best in the business when it comes to scoring buckets coming from the bench.
Danilo Gallinari was ruled out by the Atlanta Hawks due to left shoulder soreness. He is another versatile player who can put up the points and provide a veteran presence for the young players.
The Italian averaged 13.3 points in only 24 minutes of play. His 40.5% 3FG in the playoffs last season was a big part of the Hawks’ success. Gallinari usually plays the power forward role when John Collins mans the center slot in McMillan’s small-ball repertoire.
Cam Reddish is another double-digit scorer who has been saddled with injuries in his past two years with the Atlanta Hawks. When healthy, he is another potent arrow in McMillan’s quiver of weapons to unleash on rival teams. He was quite impressive against the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Eastern Finals.
The hope, however, is that Cam Reddish will have a breakout season. He has the physical traits to become an elite defender and the skills to contribute on offense. Atlanta’s playoff run could be repeated or improved on with Reddish’s development.
2) Defense is where the Atlanta Hawks will hang their hats on
More than their splashy offense, the Atlanta Hawks will depend on their defensive focus and energy to get over the hump of the East playoffs. As a team last season, they had a 113.3 defensive rating, which ranked them a lowly 21st in the league. The postseason was a little better as they finished with a 111.3 defensive rating.
The shift in defensive focus helped them turn back the New York Knicks and stunned the Philadelphia 76ers. If that middling defense can carry them to the East Finals, a full-blown defensive explosion could take them over the top.
They already have the personnel to get them to the top ten in defensive rating. Besides the aforementioned Cam Reddish, they also have De’Andre Hunter who just helped smother Luka Doncic to a poor outing. They also have Clint Capela and Solomon Hill on the roster who are stout and spunky defenders.
Even Trae Young, who was supposedly doomed to fail because of his defense, gave as much as he got in the postseason.
3) Trae Young is only going to get better
The NBA postseason is a great teacher. Some of the up-and-coming players truly became elite after experiencing playoff failure. Trae Young could be one of those who will only improve after that improbable run to the East Finals.
In his first playoff appearance, the one-time All-Star showed that he deserved a spot among the best in the NBA. The New York Knicks probably still have nightmares of Trae Young’s cold-blooded threes and savvy playmaking that led to their quick exit after such a long wait to get back into the playoffs.
Young was at his best in the second round of the playoffs. He averaged a double-double of 29 points and 10.9 assists. More impressively, he almost always found a way to help his team win.
In the season opener against the Dallas Mavericks, the All-Star guard did not have a great shooting night. However, he turned the game around to the Atlanta Hawks’ favor by scoring 12 points and handing out 9 of his 14 assists in a pivotal third quarter.
If he continues to improve, the Atlanta Hawks will be a fixture in the playoffs for years to come.