Atlanta is headed to the conference finals. A team that was once 14-20 and changed coaches finds itself among the NBA's final four. In 2020, the Hawks went 20-47. But perhaps Atlanta is a blueprint for the Orlando Magic on how to build a contending team and do it quickly.
While this Hawks' run may be a fluke in beating the Knicks and then winning three road games in their series with the Sixers, they have something the Magic must find; a star player. Trae Young and Luke Doncic may be connected for the rest of their careers because of their draft day trade. And while many believed the Mavs won that trade, I was among those who said let's see how this plays out and just maybe both teams will be happy with what they got. Anyone still wondering if the Mavs easily won that deal? Young is a star. He has that magic (pun intended) that makes him "must watch" and he makes his teammates better. He may be just 180 pounds but Young plays with an attitude that's almost Iverson-like.
But there is more to the Hawks than Young and the nucleus around young is a mix of veterans and young role players who do their job well. So perhaps the Hawks are the team the Magic can model their rebuild around. What's the formula:
Star player: Trae Young. The Magic must find their next superstar and hopefully it's the coming draft. Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz may come back and be good players, but expecting either to be a superstar is a stretch. It may be Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green or someone else, but the Magic must find that star.
Coach: The Hawks saw that Trae Young and other players were not responding to Lloyd Pierce. Despite much praise by the coaching fraternity, Pierce was 63-120 in two-plus seasons and Hawks' management knew he was not the answer so they replaced him with veteran head coach Nate McMillan. You know who loves Nate McMillan? Trae Young. Find your star and make sure your star loves your head coach.
Veteran big guy who doesn't mind doing things that don't get you on SportsCenter: Clint Capella led the NBA in rebounding this season. He spent his first five seasons in Houston grabbing the missed three point shots everyone else was taking. But the last four seasons, Capella has averaged 14.9 points and 12.9 rebounds a game.
Find a very good three-point shooter: Bogdan Bogdanovic'. He was the 27th overall pick in 2014 but played in Europe for several seasons. Traded to the Kings, he then signed with Atlanta and averaged 16.3 points a game and hit 44% of his 3-point shots
In a shooters' league find another three-point shooter: Kevin Huerter, who has been a solid three-year starter averaging more than 11 points a game
Get another frontline guy who will do the little things and dirty things up and get under the skin of his opponents: John Collins. Collins, from West Palm Beach, was the 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft(Magic took Jonathan Issac). Collins has averaged 17-points and 8-rebounds a game in his career. He looks undersized but plays his butt off and always makes big plays and doesn't mind getting up in the face of opponents or protecting his star player.
Easy? Not really. Doable? Sure. Find a star and build around the star. Again, the Hawks won 20 games in 2020 but Trae Young has made everyone better and Young has electrified a city to care about basketball. If only Orlando can become something like that. We can always believe in Magic.
Final note: The Hawks only NBA title came in 1958 when they were the St. Louis Hawks. That year they went 41-31- same record as this season's team.