NBA

Rudy Gobert trade rumours: Hawks circling defensive anchor, have assets to make consolidation deal work

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After a surprise conference final in 2021, the Atlanta Hawks have been among the most disappointing teams this season. They ended up scratching the No. 8 seed before being quickly pushed aside by the Heat in five games. The attack around Trae Young is elite, if a little vulnerable in the playoffs as a one-man show. Defense is a doormat. Chairman Travis Schlenk and new GM Landry Fields have plenty of bargaining chips. Many suspect they will use it.

A recent report from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer says there has been “a lot of talk among league staff” regarding Atlanta as a potential trade destination for jazz center Rudy Gobert, who could, in theory, be had. for “a combination of” Clint Capela, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and this year’s No. 16 pick.

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Collins is always in the middle of these trade rumors. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine Atlanta improving by trading Collins, which is why he hasn’t been traded in a deal to date, but Fischer, consistent with many other talks, reported that Collins was “mentioned” as a trade target for the Portland Trail Blazers, who could fire this year’s No. 7 pick.

Maybe Atlanta would wrap picks No. 7 and 16 in another deal then.

Somehow, Atlanta is poised to consolidate its many good but not great strengths into a single, more impactful player. Gobert makes sense as a backstop for a defense constantly compensating for Young’s shortcomings, but will Gobert like it? He’s just spent the past season covering a porous perimeter defense in Utah. Additionally, Young’s non-existent ball pressure and lackluster on-screen navigation paired with Gobert’s drop cover tilts would have pulling point guards licking their chops in playoff scenarios.

Still, the defense needs to improve, and Gobert would certainly get there. With defense being an offseason priority, it’s also why the Hawks should re-sign De’Andre Hunter for a long-term extension, according to Fischer, who also notes Atlanta’s intention to free up more playing time for third-year big man Onyeka Okongwu, who has a serious defensive edge and makes Capela expendable. But if Atlanta wants Okongwu to play more, bringing in Gobert would seem to contradict that program.

Other than Young, and that sounds like Hunter and Okongwu, the Hawks are making everyone available. After firing coach Lloyd Pierce and making the aforementioned run to the conference finals, Atlanta’s timeline for true assertion, whether intentionally or unintentionally, has increased. They have a terrific but flawed franchise centerpiece in Young, and they need to back him up properly, mostly on defense but also with another top scorer/creator to ease his playoff burden.

Hunter and Huerter’s internal development as No. 2 perimeter options seems to have a ceiling, although I really like those two players. Hunter has shown the ability to create his own offense, but he’s probably passed as No. 2.

The same goes for Huerter, who can also create his own attack and is an underrated playmaker, but is better placed as a shooter alongside more primary options, as well as Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. These are actors with the ability to contribute in a primary way on a given night. Collins is really good, but not as his own creator. It thrives on the gaps and vertical space that come with playing inside Young’s orbit. Atlanta needs a more independently equipped and consistent No. 2.

Whichever direction the Hawks go, it’s hard to see them standing this summer. A trade will almost certainly be made. Gobert would be a home run, but in truth, Atlanta has the goods to get into just about any trade talk it desires.

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