Two nights ago, the Zion Williamson sweepstakes took place with the Hawks having a puncher’s chance at landing the generational talent. However, when the ping pong balls fell, it was the New Orleans Pelicans (who only had a 6% chance of winning the lottery) landing the #1 overall pick with the Grizzlies, Knicks, and Lakers rounding out the top four. As a result, the Hawks pick landed at eight – three spots behind where they finished the regular season – and a place where they only had an 8.8% chance of selecting.
Rightfully, Hawks fans were outraged at the results. They should be. Not that the lottery is rigged for teams like LA and New York (after all the Pelicans and Grizzlies finished with the top two picks), but because once again the fate of Atlanta sports is forever cursed. For some reason, perhaps because of how much potential this Hawks team has down the road, fans genuinely believed that it would be different. That Atlanta would not get the short end of the stick for the first time in their basketball history. Not only did they not land the first overall pick, but they finished with the second-worst possible outcome.
So yeah, Atlanta fans have the right to be pissed off. We are the poster child of bad luck, poor management, and discombobulation. But for a few weeks leading up to the draft, all of that lousy karma went out the window. We were praying to the basketball gods, retweeting nonsense for good luck, and I’m pretty sure there’s even a poor Hawks fan out there with a Zion Williamson tattoo already. None of it mattered. Why? Because we are Atlanta, I guess.
That is how every member of the True to Atlanta fan club should have felt after the lottery. I would have judged you if you took it any differently. With that said, Tuesday night was far from the worst possible outcome.
Let’s put this into some perspective, and I was trying to warn you all leading up to the lottery: the new formula is vastly different than the old one. The odds to land a top-four pick are spread out reasonably equally from 1-14. The main objective for Atlanta was keeping their two top-ten picks; which they did, as the Mavs pick fell to ten. That’s a gigantic win for the Hawks.
I know there’s many of you out there saying, “Well that pick was going to covet anyways. The Mavs had no chance of moving up into the top four.” Those of you thinking that could not be more wrong. The Mavericks had the same lottery odds as the Pelicans and the Grizzlies – you know, the teams that received the top two picks in the draft. Dallas also had far better odds than the Lakers who settled for the fourth pick. There was a genuine possibility the Hawks finished with the eighth pick and then lost the Mavericks pick altogether. That would have been the real nightmare.
Instead, the Hawks are arguably left with the most envious position in the draft outside of the Pelicans, who will assuredly select Zion Williamson. They have two top ten picks in a loaded class with one of the best eyes of talent in the NBA on their side.
The Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk has a track record of success as a scout. He helped mold the Golden State Warriors incredible dynasty as the assistant GM and is pitching a perfect game in Atlanta.
With his first draft pick as the Hawks GM, Shlenk took John Collins 19th overall. Collins is well on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star. In his second draft, he shocked the world by trading Luka Doncic for Trae Young and now the tenth overall pick in 2019. He was mocked at the time. I don’t see too many laughing anymore. In that same draft, he selected lesser-known Kevin Huerter with the 19th pick. All Huerter has done is become an everyday starter in the NBA as a rookie.
Now, Schlenk has two top ten picks in a loaded draft class. Hawks fans should be ecstatic about where the team is right now. The Warriors never needed a top-five pick to build their dynasty; they simply made the most of where they drafted. Like Hawks owner, Tony Ressler said, “If we can’t make two top-ten picks work for us, then it’s our fault.” Schlenk has proven to be a wizard when it comes to the NBA draft, and I have no doubt he can find two potential All-Stars to add to the Hawks budding young core.
Yes, Atlanta fans have the right to be upset that luck is rarely in our favor, but you cannot predict luck. You can predict management, and the Hawks are finally under a group worth trusting.