What should the Atlanta Hawks do with the 6th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft?
Travis Schlenk has been the lead decision-maker for the Atlanta Hawks since 2017 and in his tenure, he hasn’t been afraid to pull the trigger on a number of moves.
Some of his notable trades have been trading down from the third overall pick to select Trae Young, passing on Luka Doncic, bundling two first-round picks to get the fourth-overall pick from New Orleans and draft DeAndre Hunter and more recently acquiring Clint Capela at the 2019-20 trade deadline.
But if there’s one thing that recent NBA history has taught us, it’s that ownership groups don’t mind losing, as long as they eventually start to win (see Hinkie, Sam).
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With a few high lottery picks on this roster, a couple of veterans around them in Capela and Jeff Teague, it might be time for the Hawks to start showing real progress and get back into the playoff picture.
It can usually be a bit tricky to gauge how eager a team is to start winning games again, but lucky for us, the Hawks can literally show us what they decide to do (or not do) with the sixth overall draft pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported last week that the Hawks are shopping their sixth pick and the New York Times’ Marc Stein adding that the pick might be used in a deal to get Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday.
On top of that, Kevin O’Connor adds that the Minnesota Timberwolves are looking to get another lottery pick with their eyes on a deal based around 17th and Jarrett Culver for Atlanta’s sixth and that the Pelicans and Celtics are also eyeing the pick.
That’s quite a bit of buzz for a “bad draft.”
We can assume that if the pick is on the table, there are suitors. But should the Hawks trade it in the first place?
If we take a step back and look at what the Hawks are as currently constituted, they have an emerging superstar in Trae Young, still, on his rookie contract, two young wings that underwhelmed in their rookie season with Hunter and Cam Reddish, a solid big-man in John Collins who’s up for an extension, their center position locked in with Capela and Dewayne Dedmon and a whole lotta cap space.
Oh, and they have Kevin Huerter who has been impressive, but doesn’t look to be a star in the league, more of a solid role player type. I apologise to any Red Mamba readers.
The Hawks were ranked 26th on offense and 28th on defense when using Cleaning the Glass’ metric and were +11.8 points on offense when Trae Young was on the court, a number that if extrapolated out through the entire game, would vault them all the way to the top of the league.
I should note, that single player on/off numbers are much more favorable than team ratings since it’s a smaller sample size and doesn’t factor in anything other than one player’s input so this isn’t world-beating, just a positive that Trae makes them respectable when on the court. They also get worse on defense when he’s on, however.
Atlanta (like every team) should build around their superstar player in Trae. If they owned the first overall pick, it’d be quite redundant to draft LaMelo Ball, a guy who would overlap too much with Trae on offense and try his best to stink as bad on defense.
The latest Sir Charles in Charge mock draft has Atlanta trading the pick to Boston for a package of Gordon Hayward and picks 14 and 26 in this year’s draft.
If the Hawks want to get better this season, Hayward would help that cause. He would sure up their wing rotation, give the team another confident ball-handler who can let Trae run off the ball and just act like a grown man on the team full of younger pieces.
Additionally, they would get two fliers with the late picks.
The deal is similar to the rumoured Jrue Holiday one, adding another ball-handler next to Trae but this one much more capable on defense with his numerous All-Defensive accolades. Additionally, the Hawks would likely get New Orleans’ 14th pick in the draft plus other compensation.
It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine the Hawks making the playoffs by adding either of those two to the rotation. But how much will it help them win a championship? The ultimate goal.
Jrue has a player option for the following season that you’d assume he’d decline to ink something of similar value but for longer. Hayward has a $34.2 million player option for this season which he’d have to pick up if the trade is to happen, but then the Hawks would have to re-sign him the following season since they invested assets into him.
Both players will be 30 next season and will likely have aged out of their primes when the young core of this team reaches theirs.
Fast-forward a lot, when Holiday or Hayward are 35-year-old, it’s a fair assumption that they won’t be difference-makers and Trae, Hunter, Reddish and Collins will all be in their mid-20s. The problem is, with an extension to the older guys, they’ll be getting paid as if they’re at their former level.
So, what are some trades for the Hawks that net them someone more aligned with their current timeline?
The Orlando Magic has offered Aaron Gordon and their 15th overall pick in trades in order to move up in this year’s draft according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. Gordon, age 25, has hardly lived up to his draft potential but is under contract for two more years and has upside.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie discussed the potential of a Dejounte Murray trade for the Hawks’ sixth pick with the theory being adding a young player whose strength, defense, makes up for Trae’s issues but his weakness, offense, is covered by Trae.
Then there’s Victor Oladipo, a guy who online trade machines are probably sick of by now since he has been mocked everywhere. The Indianapolis Star’s J. Michael reports that Oladipo is being discussed in multi-team trades, however, Atlanta’s name never came up in his article.
If he was, he’d give Atlanta similar benefits to a Murray on defense but with the potential to reach the All-NBA level he was at two seasons ago. Unfortunately, his injury concerns are also exactly that: a concern, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe says teams want to see what he can do before committing any tangible assets to him.
So far, that seems to be the only young players on the market that make any real sense for the Hawks.
There’s always the option of just drafting someone?
Instead of moving it for an established player, old or new, draft someone who you think could be the next star or help that Trae needs. Even in a lesser draft class, there’s always the unknown and a new draftee could have a one percent chance of breaking out and becoming the next superstar.
If I was Schlenk and the Hawks’ front office, I’d trust my scouting department and draft the best player available. It’s not the sexiest move in the world, but if you pick up a Hayward or Holiday type, they’re likely not contributing on the next elite Hawks team. If you trade for a young asset like Murray or Gordon, you might realize there’s a reason those guys were traded, and their original teams didn’t want them.
The safest thing to do might be the unknown, the draft. And doesn’t that last sentence just fit right in with the whole theme of 2020?
The Hawks shouldn’t be under any pressure to win now, if they are, yes, they could make the playoffs, but it might hurt their chances five years down the line when the playoff games will really matter.