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NBA Draft Grades: Atlanta Hawks receive mixed reviews despite general optimism for Trae Young

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Taking the temperature.

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

While a generally silly exercise, the practice of instantly “grading” the NBA Draft occurs each and every year and the 2018 edition was no different. The Atlanta Hawks executed something of a controversial move at the top of the board with a deal that sent the rights to Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the rights to Trae Young and a future first round pick, with selections of Maryland’s Kevin Huerter and Villanova’s Omari Spellman later in the process.

To that end, we’ve gathered a small handful of reactions (knowing full well there are many more and they are as follows.

Kyle Boone of CBS Sports declared the Hawks a “winner” in his post-draft column, saying the following about Atlanta’s performance.

We won’t be able to truly declare whether the Hawks or the Mavericks won Thursday night’s trade, but for now it’s safe to say both come out winners. Instead of sticking with Luka Doncic at 3, the Hawks flipped him for Trae Young -- the player they had their eyes on all along. Young had a phenomenal workout with the team recently, according to CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. And as a sweetener to the deal, Atlanta also picked up a 2019 first-round pick from the Mavericks that will convey to them next June as long as it falls outside the top five, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

It is certainly accurate that it is impossible to fully judge what any team does on draft night until years after the fact and that is especially the case when a trade like the one between Atlanta and Dallas is involved. If Trae Young performs at or near the level of Luka Doncic in the future, the Hawks will look (very) smart for the value they were able to extract with the deal and, if not, the takes will continue to roll.

From there, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer handed out a “B” grade for the Trae Young trade and selection.

The Hawks clearly valued Young more than almost any other team. They picked up an extra draft pick to move down two spots and get their guy, in a deal similar to the one the Celtics made last season for Jayson Tatum. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk came to Atlanta from Golden State, and he’s clearly hoping that Young can be his version of Steph Curry. This is now Young’s team. Dennis Schröder can start packing his bags.

Though the Dennis Schroder experience continues in Atlanta (for now), the overarching theme here is that the Hawks did, in fact, value Young at a higher level than seemingly any team in the class. That could prove to be the right move, of course, but the comparison to the 2017 trade between the Celtics and Sixers is potentially apt from a value perspective, at least before accounting for the unrealistic expectations put forth by the tremendous rookie season of Jayson Tatum.

Later, Tjarks gave another “B” to the Hawks for the investment in Huerter.

Travis Schlenk is officially building a bootleg version of the Warriors. It’s not just a narrative. Trae Young is a poor man’s Steph Curry and Huerter is a poor man’s Klay Thompson. Huerter was a fast riser during the pre-draft process, and he may end up being much better in the NBA than in college, where he was handcuffed by Mark Turgeon’s conservative half-court offense. He doesn’t play enough defense to be the next Klay, but Schlenk has seen first-hand how two elite shooters can make each other better.

Comparisons to the Warriors are just too easy at this point but the “bootleg version” is a new one. It is definitely important to note the defensive differences between Huerter and Klay Thompson but, from a roster construction standpoint, it is easy to see that Schlenk is prioritizing shooting and floor-spacing.

Finally, Kevin Pelton of ESPN had a harsher grade for the transaction that brought Young to Atlanta, handing out a “D” based on an evaluation of Luka Doncic.

There’s certainly a way to justify this trade from the Hawks’ perspective. If they weren’t sold on Doncic’s potential, picking up a future first-round pick and getting the player they really wanted is a much better move than simply picking Young at No. 3.

After all, if we look at the average values of the two picks, this is surely a huge win for Atlanta. The typical difference between the value provided by the No. 3 pick and the No. 5 pick over their first two contracts is less than $3 million, and even with the rookie scale increasing next season, all 30 first-round picks are worth more than that. So from that standpoint, the Hawks can’t lose!

Of course, for all the reasons I just laid out, Doncic isn’t a typical No. 3 pick, so Atlanta had to aim higher than just winning the trade by a value chart that is incapable of considering such distinctions (or accounting for a 2019 draft that appears relatively weak at this point). I would have preferred simply taking Doncic to making this deal.

There is additional work from Pelton that happens to be behind a paywall but, in short, he views Doncic (as I do) as better than a typical No. 3 pick and that changes the value calculation. In fact, Pelton entered the night with Doncic as the No. 1 player on his board and, even with a lot of love for Young in the same statistical model, the jump wasn’t justified in his mind.

It should be noted, though, that Pelton made sure to say “none of this pessimism should be construed as a knock on Young” and, as a player, he has lofty visions for the Oklahoma point guard. Still, this is a sentiment shared by many, as there is a good chance the pick acquired from the Mavericks isn’t a premium asset and only a top-flight return would justify the jump from Doncic to Young.

Reactions will continue in the coming days (including up-and-down evaluations of Spellman) and, of course, Thursday night’s effort will be litigated forever. Stay tuned.