The Atlanta Hawks sit in a tie for the worst record in the NBA in mid-December and, even if projections weren’t necessarily that low on the squad for the 2017-2018 season, year one of the rebuild was always likely to be painful. With that as the backdrop, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk joined Jared Greenberg and Brendan Haywood on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Tuesday and he made some enlightening comments.
"We've seen a lot of growth in Dennis's game this year,” Schlenk said when prompted on starting point guard Dennis Schröder as the team’s current centerpiece. “Hopefully, there's more growth in it. Right now, I think, if we're going to be honest with ourselves right now, we don't have that franchise guy. That's the guy we're looking for.”
Of course, it is not a surprise (or a revelation) from Schlenk to indicate that Atlanta does not currently have a cornerstone talent and that was likely part of the decision to rebuild. Still, these comments represent candor from the leader of the front office and he went on to outline the thought process behind focusing on the draft over building through free agency and/or trades.
“Unfortunately, the easiest way to get that guy is through the draft,” Schlenk said. “It's hard to get those guys in trades. Obviously, we're in a climate today where superstar players, when they decide they want to be traded, they can really control, quite a bit, where they're going to go. Also, obviously in free agency, it's tough to get those guys. Free agents, they want to go to a place where they can team up with someone else to try to win a championship. Unfortunately, right now, that's not where we are as an organization. So for us, the best way to get that cornerstone, franchise kind of guy is in the draft and that's kind of the path we've decided to go down to get it."
While it would certainly speed up the rebuilding timeline if the Hawks were able to acquire a top-tier piece that is more established than a (very) young rookie through the draft, Schlenk’s comments are realistic through the prism of how difficult that might be. It should be noted that it isn’t impossible but, in recent days, trade “requests” from the likes of Kyrie Irving and others have come with enough power on the player side to theoretically block a team with Atlanta’s current performance level from truly entering the bidding on a level playing field.
John Collins has exceeded any rational expectation in year one, Taurean Prince looks the part as a potential long-term starter and, despite his flaws, there is talent and offensive production from Schröder (who, of course, was benched down the stretch in the team’s most recent game) at the point. With that said, the Hawks absolutely must acquire at least one top-tier talent in order to facilitate this rebuild to a positive conclusion and the 2018 draft class, featuring Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and others, might be the best chance for the organization to do just that.