The one place an NBA franchise never wants to be is in the state of mediocrity.
You know that place, somewhere in between conference seeds six thru to eleven. The team that is always in the playoff hunt and fighting until the last few weeks in the season for position. The fans are watching ESPN every single night to see if their team won and if the other teams ahead of them lost. The excitement is there. They hope, wish and pray to get to the seventh or eighth seed to avoid any LeBron James led team or Golden State.
For the teams that get lucky. They get that seed and an invitation to the playoffs…
For about a week before they get run out in a sweep or five games if luck holds out.
Then what’s left. Draft time. Out of the lottery. You get middle of the road talent that is a long shot to change the trajectory of the franchise.
That’s what Atlanta Hawks General Manager, Travis Schlenk knew. Then he made changes. Schlenk saw a aging, high priced roster that had hit it’s ceiling. He pulled the plug and started over. Just like his former bosses did earlier. Most of the high priced veterans for the Budenholzer era are now gone with the dismissal of Dennis Schroder after the Carmelo Anthony trade. With the subsequent buyout, the direction of the franchise is clear... Develop the young players and have them learn on the job and bring in veterans to mentor them and show them the ropes. We already see that the blueprint is there. Now it’s up to the fans to wait and see what happens. The next two to three years will command patience and time to see where the vision and direction of the franchise goes from here.
There were many critics that voiced their opinion when the Hawks pulled the trade shipping Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young. Luka Doncic was tabbed as a “can’t miss” prospect as he spent last season dominating the European leagues. Physically, Doncic was the prototype player that could stand up to the Russell Westbrooks down to the Chris Pauls of the NBA.
With the Golden State Warriors leading the roost in the NBA now and for the foreseeable future, the other teams are trying to tap into the intelligence that is the Warriors blueprint to improve their rosters going forward. The Hawks are in the catbird seat with Schlenk knowing the ins and outs of building a winner from the Warriors front office.
Schlenk’s draft picks and moves shows us that the Hawks are in the middle of a major overhaul, but they have an identity and plans that explains why. When Mike Budenholzer was in town, the Hawks tried to emulate the San Antonio Spurs. Now it will be the Warriors. So let’s discuss all of the picks and break down and speculate what is in Travis Schlenk’s head when he made the picks on draft night.
Atlanta’s first 2018 Draft night acquisition: The Atlanta Hawks trade the number three pick, Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young and a future 2019 first round pick.
Umm...to be kind here, this was not a very popular decision…
The Trae Young deal caused a lot of double takes, but let’s take a deeper look at the trade. The Hawks acquired a protected 2019 first round pick as well. Dallas is not a playoff team this year. What does that mean? Possible lottery pick next year on top of their own. With a rich free agent pool, Schlenk has options in the draft as well as a selling point to potential free agents. Plus, Schlenk is already stockpiling draft picks for the future. Evidence of that was shown later that night with the trade of Devonte’ Graham for two future second round picks.
Put on the Golden State goggles and you will see...Steph Curry.
There are going to be a ton of people that will lie to you and say that they knew that Curry was a can’t miss superstar. Those people also was in the arena when the late Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.
If that was the case, Curry would not have dropped down to the Warriors. Trae Young almost has the same scouting report. Great shooter and playmaker with range going out to the parking lot. He also comes with the same concerns, too small and frail. Oh and how about those ankles? Can he guard anybody?
Soon after Stephen Curry got to Oakland, Monta Ellis was sent packing.
Fast forward to this summer. Dennis Schroder is traded to Oklahoma City for Carmelo Anthony who is bought out of his contract. Just like the future point guard duties was handed to Curry out the gate. Young will have the same privilege.
In a couple of years, we will gauge Trae Young’s performance somewhere in between Stephen Curry and former Oklahoman Buddy Hield.
Second Acquisition: The Atlanta Hawks selected Kevin Huerter out of Maryland with the 19th pick.
If everyone else was irritated with the Trae Young deal. The Huerter selection was mine. I get it, he could shoot the lights out in Maryland. Shooting over forty percent from three is quite impressive.
But the stats are not Trae Youngish at 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. They aren’t even J.J. Redickish!
But we know where this decision is getting at, more on that later, but let’s see what he can bring to the table…
A shooter who can move without the ball and shoot coming off screens. Has good instincts that will compete on the defensive end. This is a good thing especially with Lloyd Pierce as your Head Coach.
Put on your Golden State goggles and you will see...Klay Thompson
If you squint really hard and maybe turn down the lights a bit.
Klay Thompson is a world class shooter, but he is known league-wide for being a equally great defender. Thompson can go anywhere he wants next year and get a max deal. That’s why he is linked to so many teams.
Huerter on the other hand is small in stature and will struggle on the defensive end of the floor. Just because Huerter will try to play defense doesn’t mean he’ll stop anyone. Put him in the backcourt with Young and it’s pick and roll nirvana for any Hawks opponent unless Huerter gets stronger and develop better fundamentals Throw in the fact that he had to go into surgery for his right hand should cause some concern.
Cue up all the Splash Brothers comparisons now.
Third acquisition: The Atlanta Hawks select Omari Spellman, power forward out of Villanova with the 30th pick…
Here’s the funny thing here...Spellman shot better from the three point line than Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in college last year. But the difference here is that the Villanova Wildcats were winners of the National Title last year and that will help this team going forward. The Hawks are going need that glue guy that is passionate enough to do the dirty work as a rebounder and shot blocker.
Spellman does have a high basketball IQ that can be implemented in a motion offense by ways of moving without the ball (cutting, screening and making the proper pass) and crashing the offensive boards.
Put on your Golden State goggles and you will see...Draymond Green.
This comparison I tend to like. Because he may end up starting his career the same way Draymond Green did...on the bench. Remember, Green was stapled to the bench until David Lee got hurt. The thing is Draymond Green worked hard and stayed ready. So when Lee got healthy again, it didn’t matter. The rest was history. Green is a star and David Lee eventually moved on and retired.
Spellman is going to have to do the same thing. Learn the game and then he may contribute. He’s a good spot up shooter and is good with the pick and pop, however, his post up game needs work. That is something he is going to need going forward. Sure Draymond Green is not in the post alot but with the spacing of the Golden State he doesn’t need to be. The Warriors offense has a ton of options starting with a certain player named Kevin Durant that can post and shoot over the Empire State Building. Who needs Draymond Green to post. Oh yeah, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodola can go down low as well. Get the picture?
As you can see here, this draft is about SHOOTING! Hopefully for Hawks fans, something more but nothing less. You will see a lot of movement on offense with Young and Huerter bombing from outside. What you see on defense will be a testament of how good Lloyd Pierce is as a coach.
Another Golden State trait is building through future drafts. Maybe that’s why the 34th pick was traded to the Hornets for two future second round picks.
I recommend that anyone reading this understands that this draft is not a magic bullet draft. Travis Schlenk was not groomed on that at Golden State. His execution of building this team will be methodical and very well planned out. This draft is for three four years down the road. He is planting seeds and adding water to watch these guys grow as professionals.
Welcome to Golden State East!!!