The Hawks have been notoriously horrid at making draft day decisions until Travis Schlenk arrived. But if you give a franchise 50+ years, even a blind squirrel will find a nut. Here are the five best Hawks draft picks since they moved to Atlanta.
5. Al Horford
2007, Pick #3
Some of you might be thinking, “How is Al Horford not higher on this list.” He was the one mainstay on the teams that went to ten straight postseasons – a streak that started in his rookie season. Horford averaged over 14 points on 53.5% shooting, but it was his versatility at the center position that made him so special. He could guard any player on the court, pass, and stretch the floor, which led to four All-Star appearances in a Hawks uniform. All of that should land him higher on the list, but when you leave for the rival Boston Celtics and then spite the fans on the way out of town, you’re lucky to even make the list.
4. Pete Maravich
1970, Pick #3
The Hawks have had their best luck with the third overall pick. In 1970 they took Pete Maravich – a flashy point guard out of LSU. Pistol Pete, as he was called, was known for his skills that were far ahead of his time. His flashy passing and handles instantly made him must-watch television for basketball fans. As a 23-year-old rookie, Maravich averaged 23.2 points per game and finished his career averaging 24.2 points per game. Like Horford, he could be higher on this list, but the fact that he only played four seasons with the Hawks hurts his stock.
3. Kevin Willis
1984, Pick #11
Willis spent 11 seasons in Atlanta after being drafted 11th overall in 1984. He was always a solid contributor from the center position, good for a double-double almost every night. But by the end of his Hawks career, he was a rebounding machine. Willis made his lone All-Star Game in 1991-1992 when he averaged 18.3 points and 15.5 rebounds, including over five offensive rebounds a night. He remains the franchise’s all-time leader in boards. Willis was not as talented as Horford or Maravich, but his grit lands him above them on the list.
2. John Collins
2017, Pick #19
John Collins deserves the number two spot for a couple of reasons. First, he is on the path to becoming a perennial All-Star in the NBA and nearly averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in his second NBA season. None of the players on this list have averaged a 20-point double-double over an entire season. I expect that to be the norm for Collins during his career. Secondly, he was drafted 19th overall, by far the latest on this list. There aren’t too many quality starters available when picking that late – let alone All-Stars. Collins is the prototypical diamond in the rough prospect, and he could make a case for #1.
2018, Pick #5
No, this isn’t biased. That’s how special Travis Schlenk has been at identifying talent. Outside of Dominique Wilkins, who was not initially drafted by the Hawks, I expect Trae Young and John Collins to go down as the best Hawks of all-time.
If you’re not on the Trae Young bandwagon, hop on now or don’t hop on at all because what he is about to do in his second year is going to be out of this world. This was a player that averaged 25 points and close to ten assists in the second half of last season as a rookie, and he’s only going up. When Young’s done in Atlanta, he will be the all-time leader in assists, has a chance to become the all-time leading scorer, and could be one of the few that call themselves an NBA champion. He’s the point guard championship teams have to have and will continue to smash records in a Hawks uniform.