Trae Young and Vince Carter each had 21 points and John Collins added 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-108 on Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Larry Nance Jr. had 18 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and four steals for the 8-29 Cavs, who have lost six straight. Collin Sexton added 18 points as well.
The 11-24 Hawks have won five of their last six.
Hawks' Recent Hot Stretch Shows They've Sketched the Right Rebuilding Blueprint
The Hawks aren't about to win the NBA Finals, but they've proved they're a step ahead of the worst tier of teams in the league with their recent 5-1 stretch.
The rapid growth of Atlanta's young players has contributed to their ascent. Second-year big man John Collins, who was a 20-10 machine at Wake Forest, looks like he'll replicate that output in the pros. He has a sixth sense for rebounding and finishing at the rim, as evidenced by this putback dunk:
Collins' first-class athleticism and ability to literally jump over his opponents and make plays should be a significant asset for years. His numbers also speak for themselves. Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report posted some of his eye-popping stats and efficiency marks:
Andy Bailey @AndrewDBailey
John Collins is at 21.9 PTS, 11.7 REB and 2.9 AST per 75 team possessions. It's the 54th individual season with those averages. Only five of those seasons include a 60+ 2P%. 1-Collins (65.5) 2-Giannis (65.2) 3-Barkley (63.6) 4-Jokic (62.8) 5-Shaq (60.1) https://t.co/8QMwM76QYf
Remarkably, Collins is just 21 years old, so he has plenty of room to improve upon his already-stellar marks.
Atlanta has a solid young core outside Collins, however, with point guard Young continuing his rapid rookie rise. In the five games leading into the Cavs win, the ex-Oklahoma Sooner averaged 15.8 points on 46.4 percent shooting. He also hit six of 12 three-pointers and dished 8.0 assists.
Young struggled with his shot in the early portion of the season, making just 37.8 percent of his field goals until the 5-1 streak. However, he's been doing well of late, a fact that isn't lost on Peachtree Hoops:
Michael Gallagher of Rotoworld noted Young's impressive shooting outside the mid-range:
Michael Gallagher @MikeSGallagher
Trae Young shooting the ball well again today (3/5) for seven points, two boards, four dimes and one trey. Over his previous 5, he's made 46.4% from the field. Here's his shot chart in those 5 (with some bad mid-range shooting, good everywhere else) https://t.co/rKxx4p0Yn0
Young's court vision has also been on point, like this bounce-pass dime to center Alex Len for an easy two in the lane:
Ultimately, Atlanta has the right blueprint in place to become a consistent playoff team.
Ten of 15 active Hawks are in their first or second years. They have a potential All-Star core of Collins and Young to build around and a boatload of cap space too.
Furthermore, Atlanta has two first-round draft picks next year: its own plus the Dallas Mavericks' pick after the Luka Doncic deal.
The Hawks likely aren't going to the playoffs despite their resurgence, and the Mavs are on the postseason borderline in the West. If neither goes to the postseason, that gives Atlanta more chances to get a top-three pick and land an elite prospect, like Duke's Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett.
In sum, Atlanta is on the right track moving forward and should leave the bottom half of the league in its dust soon.
The Hawks start a three-game road trip on Monday against the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland begins a four-game homestand on Wednesday versus the Miami Heat.