Prior to the 2017 NBA Draft, Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk laid down the characteristics he was looking for in this draft and beyond. (h/t AJC)
Athletic, long, character, skilled...
These are the traits that Schlenk has said is looking for when it comes to targeting/selecting players. Traits that helped him build a potential dynasty in Golden State.
With the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected power forward John Collins from Wake Forest University.
Collins’ selection by the Hawks represents the first draft selection in the Travis Schlenk-era, but he also represents something else: the beginning of a new philosophy when it comes to player personnel in Atlanta.
In the past previous regime (when coach Mike Budenholzer was in charge of basketball operations and Wes Wilcox serving as the GM), there were certain qualities that a player — at least in an ideal world — had to possess to intrigue the Hawks.
These are but a few: Defense, length, capable shooting, high basketball IQ, the ability to see and make a pass, moving without the ball... These are characteristics that are shared between the Hawks’ 2016 draft selections in the form of Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry.
The criteria has changed slightly now under Schlenk. In addition to the above (which are still relevant, since Schlenk has said that both he and Bud need to agree on a player: “...it doesn’t do us any good to take a player he [Budenholzer] doesn’t like), Schlenk is placing a higher focus on athleticism and length as well as skill. Speaking before the draft, Schlenk said, “He (Mike Budenholzer) likes his players to have skills, have shooting, be able to pass. I have all those same likes, as well. The one thing, as the new guy coming in, that I focus more on than they have in the past is the length and athleticism. Not that they don’t like that. They do. It’s just I put more focus on that.”
Under the previous regime, Collins probably isn’t a player the Hawks would draft.
His defense wasn’t very good at Wake Forest (Schlenk said that, since Collins was the go-to scorer at Wake, his coach told him to not get in foul trouble and this had an effect on his defense) and if he isn’t able to improve that in the summer, he could struggle to see minutes in Mike Budenholzer’s system as Bud places a very high value on defense.
Collins is also not a very good passer either. He averaged just half an assist per game and an assist per field goal ratio of 0.05 with Wake Forest last season. If you don’t buy the stats, check the film, it doesn’t lie.
Ordinarily, a lack of vision/ability to pass the ball and poor defense wouldn’t see you drafted by the Hawks, but it’s a new day and there are things that Collins that Schlenk sees value in, more value perhaps than the previous regime...
Athleticism. Schlenk before the draft, and multiple times after Collins was drafted, mentioned athleticism, and has placed a very high importance on it. Collins is an athletic player, you only have to watch him for a short period of time to see that, even if his wingspan (6’11) isn’t necessarily “long” for the position.
Skill. Schlenk has said he is targeting skilled players and there’s no doubt that Collins is skilled, most notably in the low post.
Character. Schlenk wants his players to have good character and he sees that in the form of Collins’ parents, who both served in the military.
“(He’s a) great kid” said Schlenk after drafting Collins. "His father was in the Navy, I believe his mother was in the Air Force, so he has a very strong family background.”
The best available. Schlenk has maintained that the Hawks would take the best player available and wouldn’t be under pressure to address a team need. Schlenk had Collins ranked in the top 15 of the draft, and while the Hawks had offers to move down in the draft, when Schlenk knew that Collins was falling to him at 19 he rejected all of those offers in order to select him.
Collins represents (and not just in the draft but free agency) the beginning of a change in the Atlanta Hawks' focus and requirement when it comes to player traits/characteristics... what they now look for in a player.
Skill, length athleticism, character... be ready to hear those words often in the travis Schlenk-era.