With the Atlanta Hawks’ season in full swing and fans gathering around a team improving by the tipoff, Atlanta will also soon be able to look to the virtual world to enjoy more quality basketball.
The return of April marks the return of the NBA 2K League, where 23 teams (22 affiliated with NBA teams) compete in tournaments and regular season games for a championship title at the end of the season.
Atlanta’s affiliate club, Hawks Talon GC, is entering its third year in the league and second under manager and head coach Wesley Acuff.
After narrowly missing the postseason by just one game in 2020, Acuff believes his returning core combined with some talented additions can mix into a team capable of getting over the playoff hump.
“The next step for us is building chemistry now,” Acuff said. “We have the talent. We have the needs filled. Now, it’s just about finding a way to put this puzzle together and build the chemistry. It’s going to take a lot of communication and repetitions on the game to get it together, but that’s why we’re already playing. We’ve jumped on the game already trying to build some chemistry.”
That chemistry will begin with the club’s three returning players in BP (PG), Kel (SG), and Lee (C). Lee, who returns for his second year in the league, is coming off an All-Rookie season.
“It’s huge, you know, you don’t want to be restarting. Being able to bring back three guys that are already familiar with the league and know what to expect kind of makes it easier to get right into form for the start of the season because they’re already familiar and you’re basically plugging in two positions and then rocking out from there, so it was huge to have a core to build around.”
Acuff continued that building on March 13 when he added three more players to the club in the first, second, and third rounds of the 2021 NBA 2K League Draft. Between upgrading puissance on the perimeter and providing defensive prowess for his young club, Acuff believes his draft was successful in fulfilling his team’s most dire needs.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to pass on a top-tier talent, so we had a list of guys that if they slipped, we had to pick them. We also had a list of guys who fit the needs of what we needed on our roster, so I was just watching the board and seeing as the names came off who would be the next best available pick based on our two lists and it worked out for us.”
With his first round pick, Acuff selected Ceez, a point guard drafted to add variety to an already-strong guard room returning both BP and Kel.
“It was an easy pick for me. I always wanted to have a lot of firepower at the guard positions. You know, we came in already with a lot of firepower at those two positions, but I think adding a third one gave us the flexibility to move things around and be able to bring a different look,” Acuff said.
Secondly, Acuff drafted Fakiee, a power forward designed to make noise defensively and on the glass.
“With our next pick, we knew wanted a Power Forward that was elite and that could really bring the needs to the team that we needed: the rebounding, the intangibles, the high IQ and all that good stuff. So, we landed Fakiee with that second pick when, honestly, we didn’t even think he’d be there,” he said.
With the club’s final pick, Acuff picked up Swann, another point guard known for his lockdown presence.
“The third pick was easy for us. We needed a defender and (Swann) was a guy who I had been watching for a while and I know what he could perform like. I know what his talent level and his ceiling is and we just felt good about bringing him in,” Acuff said. “Plus, he’s a good guy, you know, family man with a kid, but he still finds a way to grind the game which is the most important part and just being able to see some of the sacrifices that he’s made to be able to get in this league mad that pick a no-brainer.”
As the club nears the beginning of the season, Acuff and his team will look to continue to turn heads and make a run at a league championship.
“Major goals for me are obviously winning, making the playoffs, getting that goal checked off the list,” he said. “I want to pull the best out of the players and get them in the space where they can be successful on and off the court.”