The Hawks thought they found their man when they hired Danny Ferry in 2012. The Spurs disciple quickly turned an organization that was stuck in the mud into somewhat of a contender in just two seasons. He was responsible for the 2014-2015 team that won a franchise-record 60 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since they moved to Atlanta. However, leaked audio of him making racist remarks in regards to Luol Deng forced ownership to make the difficult, but correct decision in letting him go.
Perhaps out of desperation, they handed the keys to Mike Budenholzer; which quickly turned into a disaster. Giving the head coach that was the mastermind behind the Hawks fluid and beautiful brand of basketball sounded like a bright idea, but the reality is coaches often cannot separate their feelings from the players they go to battle with six months out of the year. That led to several egregious decisions – like signing Dwight Howard and re-signing Kent Bazemore for 70 million dollars. After two seasons, the Hawks were left with no other choice but to reboot, and they had to find another man to put in charge.
New ownership, led by Tony Ressler, chose Travis Schlenk, who rose from a video scout in the Warriors organization to assistant general manager. Not a bad choice considering Golden State was just beginning their staggering reign of terror on the NBA. In minutes, he started to tear things down and start from scratch, resulting in Mike Budenholzer’s departure – a painful but necessary decision. This was the moment the Hawks as an organization began to turn around.
In just two drafts, Schlenk has already landed three starters and two future All-Stars. He snagged John Collins with his first ever pick as a general manager, which was a slam dunk, then shocked the world by trading Luka Doncic for Trae Young and a future first-round pick – a move he never doubted
“I’m an overweight bald guy, I can’t doubt myself,” Schlenk said regarding the bold decisions he’s made as a new general manager.
As if that was not enough, he doubled down on shooters by taking Kevin Huerter 19th overall, who started in 59 contests and made the second All-Rookie team. I like to say Schlenk is tossing a perfect game, and he’s never had as much ammo as he will come Thursday.
Following the trade for Allen Crabbe from the Brooklyn Nets, the Hawks now have three first-round picks in this year’s draft and six overall. Now Atlanta does not plan on having six rookies on the roster next season, Schlenk acknowledged it himself, meaning they plan on doing some moving come draft night. That could mean packaging some of their picks to move up into the top five (the Hawks also have three potential first-round selections next year). But at the very least, they will try to bundle some of their second round picks to move up
“It’s no secret with our three second round picks we are going to try and package them to move up if we can, but that’s easy for me to sit here and say, it’s harder to accomplish,” Schlenk said.
That could potentially mean the Hawks will select four times in the first round this year, giving Schlenk a glorious opportunity to build around his cornerstones of Trae Young and John Collins. However, the approach to this year’s draft does not change. Atlanta will not be looking to fill needs; they are taking the best player available.
“We won 29 games, so we are still looking for the best players available. Whatever that position is; we will take them and then we will figure it out on the back end,” said Schlenk.
I wouldn’t count anyone out when the Hawks are on the clock with the eighth pick (if they don’t decide to trade up) – even taking a point guard like Coby White. Schlenk knows the NBA is trending towards a positionless game, and he has a hawk’s eye for talent. He’s confident, and Thursday should be a night to remember for basketball in Atlanta