In Schlenk We Trust
The Travis Schlenk Era has officially begun for the Atlanta Hawks. Schlenk joined the Hawks in 2017 and his third draft as GM was the final catalyst to jump off the future of the organization. He began his tenure by selling off assets, trading star players, moving on from a former NBA Coach of the Year and helped put a once-60 win franchise into full tank mode, allegedly.
Fans embraced the tank. After years of seeing star players sign elsewhere, including Atlanta’s own Dwight Howard spurn the city for greener pastures out west, Atlanta had to do something. The Joe Johnson/Josh Smith era was exciting but not Finals-worthy. The Bud era was championship-worthy but more San Antonio than Miami Heat. Fans knew it took a special someone, with a special outlook, to come in and build through the draft after seeing Budenholzer come up short with his draft picks.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, Adam Silver had other plans in store. Rather than letting teams intentionally produce less-than-stellar results as a means for access to the top young NBA talents, the commissioner evened out the odds in an attempt to curb tanking. The results were less than ideal for Hawks fans in 2019 but worked nicely in 2018.
Schlenk helped bring John Collins with his first draft. He brought the city Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and Omari Spellman with his second draft. Trading Luka Doncic for Trae Young and Dallas’ pick in 2019 set up a nice haul this year and if it wasn’t for the Dallas pick I don’t think the Hawks would’ve been able to have been able to win the draft.
The NBA Draft Lottery didn’t do the Hawks any favors. Resulting in the eighth and 10th pick, less than ideal. However, the mastermind had other plans. Days before the draft he traded for another first-rounder (17), then packaged the pick on draft night night with the eighth and 35th pick for the Pelicans fourth pick.
Every outlet ran the “final haul” graphic of the Mavericks receiving Luka Doncic for Trae Young and Cam Reddish, but don’t let that fool you. The complete picture is Luka Doncic for Trae Young, Cam Reddish, and De’Andre Hunter. The reason I say that is because the Hawks allotted themselves flexibility to make moves and without the 10th pick sitting there, I find it very hard to believe Schlenk would trade 8, 17, 35, and sell off the final 2nd rounders for Hunter at 4. That would’ve resulted in a failed draft, in my opinion.
De’Andre Hunter – 6’7”, 225, SF/PF – At the time of the pick, I was less than thrilled. I like Hunter and his physical skills but to trade up for Hunter wasn’t exactly what I personally wanted. Some people see a comparison with Kawhi Leonard and others see Ron Artest. I see a guy who was arguably the best all-around player in the draft who can produce a couple 5 x 5 nights (5 pts, 5 RB, 5 Assists, 5 blocks, 5 steals) and average 15+ ppg and 7+ rebounds per game. Adding him to the young core of John Collins, Trae Young, and Kevin Huerter completes a nice foundation to build up from as a key contributor on both ends of the court.
Cam Reddish – 6’8”, 218, SF – Picking Cam Reddish with Hunter completed the A+ draft for the Hawks. Hunter is nice but Reddish has a higher ceiling than Hunter in my opinion. If we’re basing the Hawks template off the Warriors template then Young = Steph, Huerter = Thompson, Hunter = Barnes/Green, Collins = Center/PF Combo. Reddish is more likely in the mold of Durant.
OBVIOUSLY, they aren’t equal or the same players. This is just a representation of the pieces and where they fit in scheme and production.
- Trae brings 3-pt shooting, ball handling, and assists while being able to penetrate the defense and find his spots and passing lanes.
- Huerter brings outside shooting from a tall 3 pt specialist who can learn to become a better defender.
- Collins brings alley-oop and dunk potential with an ability to become a better defender and is perfect in the pick-and-roll.
- Hunter isn’t flashy but has a high motor, great defender, and can spread the defense with 3-pt ability.
- Reddish brings the quick athletic ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, while also possessing a freakish frame and athletic ability, who can also shoot 3s.
Reddish didn’t get the best opportunity to showcase and improve his in-game skills, being overshadowed by Zion and RJ Barrett most of the season. Oftentimes, he would just sit at the three-point line waiting for a pass from RJ or Trey Jones. He’s still a developmental player but is raw and with the right approach to improving his game could have a higher ceiling than Hunter.
Bruno Fernando – 6’10”, 240, C – Many mocks had Fernando going in the first round. I don’t think the Hawks thought he’d fall into the second. From a franchise that has needed to draft a true young center, Fernando’s value shoots the Hawks draft to the top of the rankings. He doesn’t even have to start to bring value. Last year at Maryland, he averaged 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, and almost 2 blocks a game. If he can bring that kind of production off the bench early in his career, then he’ll have a bright future ahead of him as a potential “Center of the Future” for Atlanta.
The results of the draft put the Hawks as one of the top young teams in the league. If they decide to keep Solomon Hill, Allen Crabbe, and Evan Turner then the Hawks should be able to compete this coming season for a playoff spot. Travis Schlenk wasn’t handed a winning hand but while the rest of the league is playing checkers, he was playing chess. The moves he made were sacrificial, controversial, and 2 years in the works. Only time will tell but he’s given the Hawks fans one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA and arguably the highest ceiling of any Hawks franchise in history.
You did good Schlenk. You did good.
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