In the aftermath of the Hawks' elimination at the hands of the Celtics, attention has turned to the future in Atlanta. A run in these playoffs would've been fun, and the Hawks went out valiantly, but from the moment Quin Snyder came aboard two months ago, this season, even the postseason, became a sort of extended tryout for the entire roster.
Who does Snyder want to move forward with?
The biggest name in question is Trae Young, who, as has been pretty well chronicled, clashed with former coach Nate McMillan. Young won that battle. McMillan got the boot. But Snyder isn't going anywhere, and The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported just prior to the playoffs that Atlanta ownership has given the "green light" to consider any and all roster moves, including potentially trading Young.
Marc Stein has since reported a Young trade unlikely to happen for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Young just wrapped the first season of a five-year, $215 million max contract. That is a difficult deal to move, and Young's market, were it to even be explored, is unlikely to be as strong as one may think considering his age and talent.
Most teams are set at point guard, and the ones that aren't would likely have trouble putting together the kind of package that would represent an immediate upgrade for the Hawks, who aren't going to get in the business of a rebuild. Urgency is high with this ownership group. Quin came to win.
Chances are, Young is staying put. And for his part, he couldn't sound more excited to continue working with Snyder, whom Young tabbed as "the future" of Hawks basketball in his postgame press conference Thursday night.
"I believe with [Snyder] here, this city's going to win a championship," Young said.
In his exit interview with the media on Friday, Young continued to glow about Snyder, calling him "cerebral" and "one of the best coaches [he's] ever had," citing their frequent communication on everything from the pace at which they want to play to the delicate balance of Young maximizing his own scoring abilities while also getting everyone else involved.
"He brings something special to our team," Young said. "I really enjoy playing for him."
But is the feeling mutual? Is Young the kind of star to which Snyder feels comfortable pinning his Atlanta fate? Snyder likely wouldn't have taken the job if he wasn't prepared to move forward with Young; again, trading him is probably a long shot.
But it's not out of the question, Stein's recent report to the contrary notwithstanding. The Young pros are obvious: in terms of creating points, he's elite. He's a proven big-stage performer that has already led his team to within two wins of the NBA Finals. The Heat exposed him and the Hawks last postseason, but he came back to average 29 and 10 against Boston in these playoffs, scoring the final 14 points of the Hawks' Game 5 win and blowing up for 25 points in the first half of Game 6.
When he gets it going, he can take over any game and/or playoff series. Talent like that is tantalizing, but it can also be deceiving. You see the offensive outbursts and think this guy must be helping us win, but that hasn't consistently proven to be the case. Young remains a crippling defensive liability, and he's never had any interest in off-ball movement, which would open up Atlanta's offense in significant ways.
McMillan's stagnant offensive system could be blamed for some of that, but improvisational relocations, at the very least, are available to any player at any time. Young hardly ever puts this tactic into play, which is unfortunate given that he's operated at north of a 40% 3-point rate on catch-and-shoots for his career.
This would also complement his backcourt mate, Dejounte Murray, who is not the same kind of spacing or shooting threat as Young and could benefit from more initiation opportunities when the two are on the floor together. Young was plenty willing to allow Murray his chances this season, but it was mostly a 'your turn, my turn' partnership. The goal is to enhance one another, and next year is the time to prove they can do it as Murray becomes a free agent in the summer of 2024.
"Our backcourt is fun to coach," Snyder said of Young and Murray following the Game 6 loss. "They've both been really committed to what we're doing."
Under Synder, the Hawks played faster and the offense figures to prioritize more motion moving into next season. Young is saying the right things now about following Snyder's lead. But he has to put those words into action. He has to be willing to get a little uncomfortable.
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Perhaps some more off-ball work will be on Young's summer to-do list. Conditioning, so he can stay in more constant motion. Catching and shooting on the move, rather than just spot-ups as a floor spacer, which is what he mostly defaults to when he isn't initiating at this point in his career.
"There's a lot of things I can get better at," Young said with the giddy smile of a guy who can't wait to get to work. "I don't want to get into too much specifics with what we're going to work on, but I'm just excited for this summer."
The's not alone. The whole organization is ready to get to work this summer. Some potentially tough calls could be made. Every playoff rotation player is under contract next season, but trades, as always, feel like they're coming. John Collins. Clint Capela. Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Hawks are about $12 million over the luxury tax line, and ownership isn't going to want to foot a massively punitive tax bill for a middling team.
But in the end, this comes back to Young. Right now, he's the franchise. But winning with a small defensive target/ball-dominant point guard as your best player in the playoffs is extremely challenging. We know Trae thinks he can win with Snyder. But again, is the feeling mutual? We may find out this summer.