3 Trade Targets for Hawks to Pursue at 2022 Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2022

3 Trade Targets for Hawks to Pursue at 2022 Deadline

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    After soaring to the Eastern Conference Finals just last season, the Atlanta Hawks appeared like a rising NBA power.

    Then someone apparently clipped their wings ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, and they have been ground-bound ever since. If the season ended today, they wouldn't even make the play-in tournament.

    The Hawks, who already swapped out Cam Reddish for a first-round pick, could rank among the most active teams this trade season. Their roster is about as deep as they come, but it lacks a legitimate co-star for Trae Young and might have too many puzzle pieces for head coach Nate McMillan to sort out.

    Atlanta seems a prime candidate for a consolidation trade, but it could make moves up and down the roster. The following three players could all be targeted to fill various roles on the team.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The Hawks need a second star, and there just so happens to be one who is a) available, b) the perfect age, 25, to grow with this core and c) a potential solution to their dreadful problems on defense.

    To no one's surprise, they are "among the most engaged recently" in Ben Simmons trade talks, per The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick. The reported trade cost is steep—Philly asked for "a package around John Collins and multiple first-round picks from the Hawks, along with Atlanta taking on Tobias Harris"—but the payoff could be even greater.

    Atlanta's defense has sprung holes all over, and Simmons might be the best equipped to fill them as arguably the Association's most versatile stopper. He has the mobility to handle point-of-attack duties, the size to battle bigs near the basket and the length and motor to create chaos off the ball.

    He could be plenty helpful on offense too, as his shot creation would lighten the load Young shoulders, and Simmons' combo of agility and playmaking could perk up their transition attack. Simmons would need to buy in to handling the basketball less, and Atlanta might discover there isn't enough shooting between him and Clint Capela to keep both around, but in the right role, Simmons could shine in Atlanta.

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Much like the Hawks, the Celtics seem primed for a shake-up at the deadline. That might give Atlanta an in to pry away Boston's longest-tenured player.

    Marcus Smart might be the heart and soul of the Shamrocks, but it's looking more and more likely that he's not the ball-moving lead guard they need.

    Get him to Atlanta, though, and Smart could spend less time on the basketball and more of it focused on pestering the opponent's top perimeter player. His defensive tenacity could give the Hawks some needed nastiness on that end, and he would give them the lockdown guard defender that's missing from the roster.

    Smart could quietly address some of Atlanta's offensive needs too. He's a perfectly suitable secondary distributor, which might free up Young to attack more. And given the gravitational pull Young has on opposing defenses, Smart might find more open catch-and-fire perimeter shots and push his three-point percentage back into a more workable range (30.3 percent now, 34.8 over the previous three seasons).

Kenrich Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Rusty Jones/Associated Press

    While a consolidation deal feels like Atlanta's next major move to make, it's possible that option doesn't surface until the summer.

    If the Hawks aren't interested in Simmons at his price point, there may not be a different co-star to go get. Waiting out the trade market might become a non-negotiable to unearth the caliber of player they covet.

    But waiting on a blockbuster doesn't have to mean sitting out trade season. The Hawks could still make moves around the margins, and if that's the route they take, then pursuing Kenrich Williams would make all kinds of sense.

    His defensive versatility would help scratch their biggest itch, his endless energy could invigorate the locker room, and his there-when-he-needs-it outside shot would keep opposing defenses honest.