With the Hawks being one of eight teams eliminated as the NBA aims for a return to action in Orlando, Florida, they officially have the fourth-best odds to land the #1 pick at 12.5%. They also have a 48.1% chance of landing inside the top-four selections and cannot finish outside of the top eight, providing Travis Schlenk with another golden opportunity to add to this young core in the draft, where he has had plenty of success dating back to his days as a scout for the Warriors and continuing into his early years as the Hawks general manager. However, is that the best way for Atlanta to become contenders in 2020-2021 like they aim to?
This upcoming draft class is viewed as one of the weaker ones. Some might say it is top-heavy, but even when looking at mock drafts, it’s rare to find a consensus top five or even top pick for that matter. Some are infatuated with Lamelo Ball; others still think James Wiseman is the best player, or perhaps it is in-state star Anthony Edwards. Hell, even Obi Toppen from Dayton is receiving some love for the first overall selection. The NBA draft is often a crapshoot, but this year, it seems that way more than ever.
With that being said, Schlenk has been able to make the most of his opportunities, proving to be elite in the scouting department. In his first year as the GM, he selected John Collins 19th overall, who is well on his way to becoming an All-Star. The very next draft, Schlenk traded back for Trae Young, who was an All-Star starter in his second season, and also picked up the tenth pick in the 2019 draft, which the Hawks turned into Cam Reddish, who had a magnificent end to his rookie campaign. The Hawks should have all the faith in the world that Schlenk can search through the weeds and find talent no matter where they are selecting, but do they really need to add another young, unproven name to their roster?
Atlanta is currently littered with youthful stars and potential studs that could pop at any second. However, adding more rookies will only hinder development, preventing several players from receiving many minutes, and it certainly won’t help them reach the playoffs like they are hoping to next season. Trae Young and John Collins are itching to be competitive, so it may be time to turn some of these assets into proven pieces.
Just yesterday, our Jake Gordon talked about his dream offseason in which the Hawks made a trade for disgruntled superstar Bradley Beal. Beal is one of many stars that may be available this offseason via trade, and Atlanta’s first-round selection is a fantastic place to start, especially if it lands outside the top five.
The lack of scouting for this draft class also has to be taken into consideration. Sure, NBA scouts begin watching most prospects while they are in high school, but a shortened season thanks to COVID-19 will make life much more difficult for Schlenk and his team. It could also prevent them from holding individual workouts, and we already know there will be no Summer League. The odds that a pick outside the top-five becomes a critical piece to a Hawks playoff run next season is rare, making it even more enticing for them to move it for a player that can help them win now.
Of course, if Atlanta finally has some luck in the lottery, and they end up with one of the top picks, that could change things. But I still wouldn’t count out the possibility of them moving it in a trade. The entire team has voiced their displeasure with the losing that has gone on over the past three seasons, and this appears to be a critical offseason in a number of ways. Don’t expect Travis Schlenk to go crazy; he’s shown how patient he can be, but if the right offer comes around, the Hawks have all the assets to make nearly any deal they want. This offseason could be the ideal time for Atlanta to use their top pick as leverage rather than add another project to their roster.