I don’t think I talk about it nearly enough. Hawks Nation – we are incredibly blessed to FINALLY have a management group that knows what they are doing. For years, we have been cursed by shoddy front office work that has passed on the best players in the draft and doled out lucrative contracts to undeserving “stars.” They completely ignored the whole premise of rebuilding and continuously tried to force things that were never there.
The NBA is notorious for its dynasties. The Celtics dominated the 60s and 70s, followed by the Lakers, Pistons, Bulls, Lakers again, Spurs, Heat and now Warriors. There is a reason for that: The only way to build a dynasty in this league is from the ground up – especially in a small market. Finally, the Hawks have someone who understands that.
After a surprising surge at the end of last season, Atlanta was left with a decision this offseason – continue to stockpile assets and further the rebuild or flip the switch and attempt to make the team as competitive as possible for a playoff run. The latter is very easy to do. After all, everyone around the organization, including you and me, are competitors. Nobody likes to lose.
The Hawks have been trying to force championship runs with lesser teams for years – only to find themselves as a dreaded treadmill team before it is too late. The sign of a quality GM is understanding the situation, showing patience, and realizing it’s way too early to pounce. That’s precisely what Travis Schlenk did yesterday by trading Taurean Prince and a future second-round pick for Allen Crabbe, the 17th overall pick and a protected 2020 first-round selection.
Allen Crabbe’s $18.5 million will take up a substantial chunk of the cap space the Hawks had heading into this offseason. They are now likely out of the running for any notable free agents – unless someone like Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant shows interest in coming to Atlanta (not going to happen). But this trade is all about looking towards the future.
The Hawks have the beginnings of their building blocks. Trae Young and John Collins both project to be future All-Stars; Kevin Huerter was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last year, and Omari Spellman even showed some promise in limited action. Now, after this trade, they have three first-round picks in this month’s upcoming draft, and two of them are in the top ten.
Keep this in mind: With the three selections Travis Schlenk has had in the top twenty as a general manager (3,19,19), he’s turned them into John Collins, Trae Young, the 10th pick this year, and Kevin Huerter. The guy is throwing a perfect game, and he could not be blessed with a better position heading into this month’s draft. He can stand pat and play the numbers game or make a move up the board for a player he likes. The possibilities are endless, and there isn’t a general manager with a cleaner track record than Travis Schlenk.
But wait – I’m just getting started with all the outstanding news. Not only are the Hawks set to have three first-round picks this year, but they could also be looking at three more again in the next draft. Atlanta owns their pick, Cleveland’s first-rounder (top-10 protected), and Brooklyn’s (top-14 protected).
I’m still not done yet. Yes, Allen Crabbe’s contract this year might be the worst in the entire NBA. In fact, when you look at the Hawks’ books for 2018-2019, it’s quite gaudy. They are paying Crabbe over $18 million, Bazemore over $19 million, and Miles Plumless over $12 million. That has to be the most abysmal trio of contracts on any NBA team. But it is no coincidence that they all come to an end after the upcoming season, freeing the Hawks of over 50 million dollars that they can spend on free agents next summer.
Can you say Schlenking?
At the end of last season, I wrote an article examining which NBA teams are actually set up to win a championship in the future better than the Hawks. I could only come up with five or six teams for sure, and after this deal, that list is shrinking. Atlanta is in as good of a position to win a title after the 2019-2020 season as anybody in the NBA. I can’t remember a time where that thought even remotely popped into my head in my lifetime. The dismal reputation of Hawks basketball is changing in front of our very eyes, and all it took was some sensible management.
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