The Atlanta Hawks have blown everything up and started over. Even though this franchise has been a part of the NBA for years, this is definitely under a business start up scenario. They have basically a new ownership group that includes newly enshrined Hall of Famer, Grant Hill. The team has a new business partnership with State Farm with brand new renovations and name for the arena. A new coach, a new philosophy. This is a new beginning for the Atlanta Hawks.
But new beginnings are exciting as well as scary. Why? No one knows how things are going to turn out and everyone wants to be a part of a project that grows into a success. The growing pains and the process can have numerous rough spots along the way. There has to be important elements implemented early that are the right fit for what the Hawks want to accomplish in the upcoming years. For any successful business, there has to be a sound business plan that needs to be executed.
But can the Hawks be patient enough for these plans to be executed? The Hawks cannot afford to make the mistakes that happened in the Mike Budenholzer era.
This article is in no way saying that Mike Budenholzer should be coach of the Atlanta Hawks. He needed to go and he should be fine in Milwaukee. Lloyd Pierce is the coach for the future for the Hawks. HawksHoop broke down what Head Coach Lloyd Pierce brings to this franchise…
What the message of this article is saying is that the future of the franchise cannot be changed every five years for this franchise to have any stability and consistency.
The five years that Mike Budenholzer was in Atlanta, the Hawks got exactly what they hired him for. Wins, playoff runs and a level of consistency to the franchise. Some of his accomplishments include…
In the 2014-15 season, Budenholzer wins NBA Coach of the Year after leading Atlanta to a 60-22 record, a Southeast Division title which was the first division title in 21 years and the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. One Kyle Korver ankle roll over and we have to question if the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers sweep the series in the Conference Finals.
Four playoff appearances in five years.
A promotion to President of Basketball Operations.
The promotion of Budenholzer is where the Hawks made the mistake. Going forward, here’s where the franchise needs to understand the expectations of what they want going forward and stay the course. Here’s where the philosophical differences that led to the Budenholzer divorce has to fall on the Hawks.
Here’s the scenario…
When the Hawks hired Budenholzer as the coach and eventually gave him complete control of the decision making duties, one has to believe that he would build the team in the vision of the team that he left...the San Antonio Spurs.
I mean why wouldn’t he? Budenholzer spent 19 years with the Spurs. That tenure included 17 on the Spurs bench with Gregg Popovich and was the top assistant for his last six years there. Understand that at the time Budeholzer was brought in, the blueprint to building a franchise was located in San Antonio. That’s why he was hired. He was a major part of four NBA championships the Spurs won.
Take a look back at the San Antonio Spurs. That is a veteran laden-team that slowly brings their young players along slowly with a specific program that has the veterans developing the young players and they then move into the rotation at a certain time. The Spurs had an established system that goes on to this day. This is all that Budenholzer knows in his career. With all of the power in decision making, this was the system that was being implemented.
Enter Travis Schlenk…
Again this is not a Schlenk bashing session. He is the perfect hire for this era of Atlanta Hawks basketball. But it showed the change in the mission statement and how it affects the personnel.
When Hawks owner, Tony Ressler shifted the power of decision making over to Travis Schlenk, the philosophy of the team’s future changed.
Travis Schlenk was brought in last year to rebuild the Atlanta Hawks in the vision of a team that he has known for years...the Golden State Warriors.
The average NBA fan sees the Warriors as the class of the NBA. The new age dynasty that seems to have all of the right answers when it comes to staying ahead of the rest of the league. Very few understand the steps that it took to do it. Travis Schlenk knows.
The philosophy that Schlenk is bringing in is the other side of the spectrum from his predecessor, Mike Budenholzer. Instead of the veteran laden team that was starting to lose ground in the Eastern Conference, Schlenk decided to change course…
The Hawks going forward will build up their roster through the draft with the same steady approach of the NBA champs.
Hawks General Manager, Travis Schlenk spoke on that in the past courtesy of Mercury News…
“The draft obviously gives you the best chance to get a franchise-changing talent,” Schlenk said. “But there’s luck involved in it as well. There has to be that talent in the draft when you’re down there. Golden State, we obviously built a foundation of that team through the draft.”
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? Seems like the formula worked out for them.
Let’s look at the moves that Schlenk has made since he took over as the head decision maker…
He traded Dwight Howard and the 31st pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Miles Plumlee, Marco Bellinelli and the 41st pick.
At first glance, you look at this deal and say…”Are you out of your mind?” But over time we see that there is a shift of culture and identity. As of this writing, Dwight Howard has been moved seemingly to his 734th team in three years and his reputation as player is at a all time low. Belinelli has bounced around as well. Okay, the Miles Plumlee acquisition I see as the toll to cross the bridge.
Then, he allows former All-Star and best player Paul Millsap to sign with the Denver Nuggets.
Some would have liked to see if there was some compensation for Millsap walking out the door. It strikes a strong similarity to Al Horford walking as well. But if you are blowing everything up, and starting over. It’s the price of doing business.
Finally he lets Tim Hardaway Jr. go back to New York after the Knicks gave him a four year, $71 million dollar contract.
This would be considered a egregious move based on the fact that Hardaway Jr. seemed to be figuring out the NBA game. He had played outstanding in the second part of that season leading up to the contract. Since then, Hardaway Jr. has regressed since leaving.
Dennis Schroder is traded out of town for Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is immediately bought out of his contact.
Now try and sell blowing up a team that has made the playoffs ten years in a row and shipping the best players out? Does Travis Schlenk see something that the Hawks fans don’t...
Schlenk does...courtesy again of Mercury News…
“It felt like the group of Hawks that were here, their best days were behind them,” Schlenk said. “There was kind of a slow gradual decline each year. ‘The question that had to be asked is, ‘Do we go out and try to add a piece to the group of guys to get us back on the upswing? Or do we hit the reset button?’”
His moves were right for two reasons…
Number one, as bad as the Hawks will struggle for the immediate future, the franchise will still be better off than they were. Being a mediocre team on the downswing is the worst position for a NBA franchise. Usually teams in this position have poor draft position and it’s difficult to find that franchise altering player, Travis Schlenk speaks of.
Number two...cap space, cap space, cap space. Howard’s contract being traded, not offering a max deal to Millsap and matching Hardaway Jr.’s tender gives the Hawks valued flexibility going into next summer. With Trae Young coming in to be the point guard of the future, it was important to move Schroder so Young’s development wouldn’t be stunted. Schlenk has seen it before. Remember Stephen Curry’s entrance to the NBA? Golden State shipped out Monta Ellis soon after.
Going forward, the success will be based on everyone being on the same page. This starts from the ownership group, down to the front office down to the coaching staff. The last year was a result of dysfunction.
The Hawks made two great hires, but the two hires had two different philosophies. Budenholzer brought in a winning philosophy from the Spurs and the Hawks liked what he brought to the franchise why? It was the “cool” way of building a winning culture. When Atlanta brought in Travis Schlenk in from Golden State, he brought in a winning philosophy. But now the Warriors are now revered like the Spurs was in the past.
Resentment probably ran amuck last season with the change of direction within the franchise. The Hawks cleaned it up (about a year too late!) with the departure of Budenholzer.
Now that Schlenk’s regime is here…
The Hawks have to practice more patience than they did Budenholzer.
The young players need it to survive today’s NBA.