You can follow Wes on Twitter @bloghawk.
Thank you Wes for participating in our Q&A.
1. The Hawks are dealing with a boatload of COVID issues, including head coach Nate McMillan’s absence. How have the Hawks reacted to COVID and who is stepping up?
The circumstances have certainly been difficult. It has gotten so bad that for the past two days, the Hawks have only had three players from their fifteen man roster and one two-way player available to play for them, forcing the rest of their rotation to be 10-day contact hardship signings with no real rapport with the rest of the team. The answer has been to play the main guys huge minutes, with Trae Young and Clint Capela, for example, topping 40 minutes in the past game. Young is on a historic streak of registering at least 25 points in each of the past 14 games, nearing a franchise record, so he’s been the biggest reason the Hawks have been able to tread water.
2. Trae Young entered protocols in December but has since been cleared to return. How good has he been since returning and how do you feel about his matchup against Damian Lillard?
As I mentioned above, Young’s play has been fabulous as of late and he has somehow propped up a makeshift rotation on the offensive end. The Hawks’ scoring hasn’t missed a beat since his return and he’s cementing himself as an elite player in this league despite the unfortunate situation Atlanta is in so far. Young should be able to hold his own against Lillard and I would expect another 25 and 10 game.
3. If the Hawks win this game, what would be the reason why?
The Hawks are slated to return six players from out of the NBA’s Health and Safety protocols, which should give them depth and a defensive identity again. Reportedly none of the players returned showed any real symptoms and theoretically should hit the ground running in their returns. This will include good perimeter defenders Delon Wright and Kevin Huerter and a rim protector in Onyeka Okongwu so their defense should get a real boost.
4. What is one thing you want Blazers fans to know about the Hawks that can’t be seen through box scores?
The Hawks have struggled in their perimeter defense, and the key to breaking them down this season is to attack off the dribble. Dame Lillard in particular should be a difficult cover for the Hawks. Atlanta will have to win in a shootout if they are to win this contest.
5. What is your prediction for Monday’s game?
I think with Atlanta reportedly returning to having enough rotation players to not have to rely on hardship players, the Hawks should be able to score just enough points to come out of Portland with a 117-113 victory.