Hawks rookie Jalen Johnson dunks during practice. Photo: atlhawks on instagram

The Atlanta Hawks had a strong finish to the 2020 season, and there are high expectations for the upcoming one. The Hawks were able to maintain their entire starting lineup, including a re-signing of power forward John Collins. Small forward Deandre Hunter is back from injury and the Hawks drafted rookies, Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper.

The Hawks paved their way into the 2020 postseason and shocked the world when they upset the Philadelphia 76ers, sending them to the Eastern Conference Championship. The team, led by point guard Trae Young, defeated the 76ers in an eventful game seven which the Hawks won 103-96. Atlanta then took on 2x MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals. The series went back and forth until game 3, when Young landed on a referee and injured his ankle. The Hawks ended up losing the series in six games.

As free agency opened up, Hawks center John Collins was set to hit the market. Following media speculation as to whether or not Collins would re-sign with the Hawks, a deal was reached. According to ESPN’s Andrew Wojnarowski, Collins agreed to a five-year 125 million dollar contract that is believed to have a player option for his fifth season.

Aside from the re-signing of John Collins, management did not make any other big moves throughout the offseason. No major trades were made, and no other significant players were acquired. However, the retention of the team’s starting lineup from the 2020 season has created hopeful expectations for the future season.

Atlanta drafted Jalen Johnson with the 20th pick in the 2021 draft. “Very good athlete and well-coordinated. Finishes above the rim with ease. Good speed and gets to the rim to finish with either hand. Slashes off the dribble and gets to the rim fairly easily. Thrives in transition as a leader and finisher … Good instincts and IQ,” said Derek Bast on nbadraft.net. It appears as if Johnson can function as a strong addition to the Hawks and make an instant impact on the team.

The Hawks also drafted Atlanta-native Sharife Cooper with the 48th pick out of Auburn. “Cooper is the draft’s best playmaker with speed, handles, shiftiness, passing skills and vision that suggest the assists will carry over. He needs to improve his shot, but Cooper will start create scoring opportunities by getting to the rim and drawing fouls,” said Jonathan Wasserman on Bleacher Report.

With the addition of these two talented prospects, one can expect the Hawks to be a prominent force in the East and make a strong push toward a title.

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