Hawks much improved to start season

Trae Young (11) crosses half court while guarded by Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell on January 22. The Hawks would win on the back of Young’s 43 points and Clint Capela’s triple double. // Photo courtesy of Stacy Bengs Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks, currently competing for a playoff spot for the first time in years, held their first fan attended game of the season last week.

The game featured very limited attendance, with 1,364 season ticket holders allowed into the arena. The team planned to allow only season ticket holders to attend but had to further limit the crowd after too many applications.

The Hawks improvement from last season has been driven by defense. With the addition of Clint Capela, the shot-blocking by the Hawks has reached new heights, with the center recording a triple double after an almost-unseen 10 block game on Jan. 22. Last season, the team ranked near the bottom in NBA defense, giving up the second most baskets within five feet in the entire league.

Trae Young has emerged as a potential superstar in the league, averaging 27 points per game with 8.6 assists. The young player has shown off his passing ability, with two star-level options to be found in John Collins and Capela. The dangerous trio has helped propel the Hawks offense into the top ten in the NBA by points per game.

The NBA season has struggled more than last year, when players were famously sent to quarantine in hotels in Disney. Teams this year travel around the country as in a normal season, eliminating the protection offered by the Disney bubble.

This move has caused teams to struggle with player absences due to the coronavirus, causing the Hawks to add to the NBA total of 21 games moved from coronavirus after a postponement with the Phoenix Suns. Even with the postponement, the Hawks have been more fortunate than many other teams. Jimmy Butler worried many Heat fans the previous week after appearing on the sidelines looking far skinnier after a COVID-19 absence.

Atlanta has recently been mentioned as a potential hub for the NBA All-Star game. Although there has been no formal agreement, current conditions have caused the NBA to postpone the All-Star game that was slated to be played in Indianapolis. This has caused an opening for another city to host. Talks are still in the works and any All-Star game would be played in May.

Either way, the game stands as of little importance for most of the Hawks players, with Trae Young having the most potential for an appearance. However, the star has recently come under scrutiny for attempting to draw fouls. The moves have been criticized by both former NBA superstar Steve Nash and current leading NBA player Lebron James. Drawing fouls, an action taken by most NBA players when the opportunity arises, has been something at which Young has excelled, getting to the free throw line over 10 times per game.

As the season continues, the Hawks have an opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time in years, currently being in contention among the strong teams of the East. Currently standing at number six in the East, the Hawks are in a strong position to snatch a lower-level playoff spot.