After a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals last summer, the Atlanta Hawks’ encore season hasn’t gone as planned. Among injuries, health and safety protocols, and regression from some key contributors, they find themselves 12th in the Eastern Conference at 17-20 and a full game back of a play-in spot.
Much of the issue revolves around their 26th-ranked defense, headlined by poor perimeter stoppers and inability to slow ball-handlers off the dribble. According to Marc Stein, Atlanta could be a team to monitor as the trade deadline approaches and Ben Simmons talks potentially heat up with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It was suggested to me this week by one league source to keep an eye on Atlanta as an emerging suitor for Philadelphia’s Simmons,” Stein wrote.
This news comes after Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk conducted a radio interview earlier this week and questioned whether he’s taken the proper steps to assemble a winning roster by opting to largely run it back after last year.
“It’s my responsibility to put a product on the floor that can win,” Schlenk said, “and right now I’m not sure I have done that.”
Offensively, Simmons appears to be a murky complement to a rim-running, non-shooting center like Clint Capela, but the defensive fit is obvious. Simmons is a two-time All-Defensive First Team honoree and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season. He’s arguably the NBA’s top perimeter defender. His skill-set would boost a struggling defense significantly.
Philadelphia has reportedly long sought a star like Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard if it trades Simmons. While Atlanta doesn’t have that caliber of player, Stein still sees a deal involving these clubs as a possibility.
“They have numerous enticing trade pieces to try to bring in other teams and expand the options in a theoretical multi-team trade construction,” Stein wrote. “The prospect of a Trae Young/Simmons combination, given the defense Simmons could bring to Atlanta and the devastating playmaking duo he could form with Young, would certainly intrigue me.”