Rome wasn’t built in a day. All great sports dynasties require an insane amount of luck, skill and timing.
The Celtics and Lakers of the 1980s found 2 of the 15 greatest players in NBA history in the same draft (Magic and Bird) and proceeded to build championship-caliber rosters with Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale and James Worthy.
The 90s-era Bulls lucked out when Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all time, fell to the 3rd overall pick then used assets and keen scouting to surround him with guys like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
I’m here to lay out the series of events, both luck-based and skill-based, that are going to lead to the Atlanta Hawks ruling the NBA by 2021.
ACT 1: Darkest Before the Dawn
The 2018 Atlanta Hawks continue their losing ways and finish with the second-worst record in the league behind the Sacramento Kings. They win the 2nd overall pick in the draft lottery and with Marvin Bagley off the board, the Atlanta Hawks select the all-around European stud Luka Dončić to be their centerpiece of the future.
The Warriors roll through the playoffs, dropping two games to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and sweeping the Eastern Conference-champion Toronto Raptors. James Harden takes home MVP.
The 2019 offseason is one to remember. LeBron James expresses his dissent with the Cavaliers organization and executes a sign and trade to the Houston Rockets for their 2019 and 2020 first round picks, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela. Paul George re-signs with the Thunder and DeMarcus Cousins leaves the New Orleans Pelicans to join his Kentucky brother John Wall on the Washington Wizards.
The Hawks make no major moves in the offseason and walk into the 2019 season with few expectations.
The 2019 season starts, and it’s clear from the start that there the Rockets and Warriors are in a tier by themselves in terms of team quality. The Hawks are in better shape then some of their tanking counterparts as the Magic and Kings continue to look lost, the Cavs won’t recover from the LeBron departure for a long time and Dallas is still too mismatched to win consistently.
With head coach Mike Budenholzer still at the helm, the Hawks win around 30-35 games and with Collins and Prince blossoming, Dončić takes home ROTY honors, averaging a Ben Simmons-esque 16-7-7.
The Hawks end up with the 8th overall pick and take Bol Bol, the 7′ 3″ center out of Oregon (and son of former NBA hero Manute Bol), who inexplicably falls to Atlanta.
The Rockets and Warriors play an epic seven-game WCF, with LeBron and Houston coming out on top to move on and face the Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward-led Celtics. Houston wins in 6 and LeBron finally takes home his 4th ring. Kevin Durant wins his second MVP.
ACT 2: Strike When the Iron is Hot
With a starting lineup of Dennis Schröder, Luka Dončić, Kent Bazemore, John Collins and Bol Bol, the Hawks are one of the more exciting up and coming young teams in the NBA. However, it is clear that they are lacking elite-level talent to do any real damage in the playoffs. With Baze opting out of his player option to pursue a ring, the Hawks and their abundance of cap space are in the market for a star free agent.
With the Warriors choosing to re-sign Kevin Durant, they won’t have enough money to keep Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. That’s where the Hawks come in and swipe Klay from the Warriors, convincing him with a Kyrie Irving parallel, “We have young talent and a roster ready to compete, come be the featured piece,” and with a strong fanbase constantly letting him know how much we would love to have him, he decides to sign a max deal with the Atlanta Hawks.
LeBron signs another one-year deal with the Rockets and KD also re-signs with the Warriors for a max two-year deal with a player option for the 2020 season.
The 2019-2020 season begins and the Hawks start to look like a winning basketball team. With Klay showing his ability to be the centerpiece of an offense and everyone showing commitment to playing defense, the Hawks finish in the top 15 in both offense and defensive efficiency and proceed to make the playoffs as a 7 seed, winning 42 games. They lose in 5 in the first round to the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks — but the team’s future looks promising.
The Rockets and Warriors meet again in the WCF with Golden State coming out on top and winning in 7 against the Boston Celtics. LeBron James and Chris Paul both announce that the 2020-2021 season will be their last.
One massive offseason move shakes the NBA to its core, as Kawhi Leonard leaves the San Antonio Spurs after their relationship grew toxic over his issues with injuries and their failure to rehab correctly. He joins the godfather himself in Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.
The Hawks pick up the team options for their rookies and sit on their unused cap space for the monster summer of 2021.
ACT 3: Atlanta Sports Gets its Savior (Albeit Inorganically)
The 2020-2021 season is a sentimental one as every Rockets game is used as a way to commemorate Chris Paul and LeBron James for their monumental achievements in NBA history.
The Hawks quietly win 46 games and take the 5 seed with Boston losing its hold on the 1 seed to the Boogie, Wall and Bradley Beal trio in Washington.
The Hawks get an extremely unlucky draw and lose to the Kawhi-led Miami Heat in 6 and head into the offseason with one major acquisition in mind…
The Rockets lose in 6 to the Warriors, Boston beats Milwuakee and upsets Washington and Golden State to win the 2020 title. Kawhi wins MVP.
The Hawks let Schröder walk in the offseason to create cap space and ideally make their roster perfect for their upcoming title fight in free agency.
With LeBron out of the league, the most important offseason in NBA history is set to begin and Giannis Antetokounmpo is an unrestricted free agent. The rift between himself and the Bucks organization created after Jason Kidd was fired never truly healed and his relative anger at not being recognized for MVP yet is a small part due to the lack of coverage a city like Milwaukee receives.
He sets up meetings with all the major franchises and one team catches his eye. Atlanta has a young, ready-to-contend team with no real superstar but elite-level talent at all positions.
A city that’s starved for a championship who needs a hero to save them from sports limbo — teams that are good but never good enough. Atlanta has been a center for hip hop and its vibrant culture for decades and is finally becoming a free agent destination in the same vein as New York, Boston and Miami.
All of this combined with the fact many teams don’t have an abundance of cap space, The Greek Freak announces his intention to sign a max contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
Heading into the 2021-2022 Season, the Atlanta Hawks will roll out a starting unit of Dončić at the 1, Klay Thompson at the 2, Giannis Antetokounmpo at the 3, Collins at the 4 and Bol Bol at the 5 with Taurean Prince and ring-chasing veterans filling out an absolutely loaded roster.
With the luck of drafting Dončić and Bol and the skill of convincing Klay and Giannis to come lift a cursed sports city out of the darkness, this is the blueprint for how the Atlanta Hawks can rule the NBA by the start of the 2021 season.