While the Atlanta Hawks’ 2018 draft was as much anticipated as any in recent years, it certainly played out in an unexpected fashion. The haul of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Omari Spellman and a future first round pick from Dallas is an abundance for a single NBA team on a single draft night. Still, the decisions that resulted in that haul seems to have understandably left some feeling a bit (or a lot) underwhelmed given the draft assets the Hawks had at their disposal last night.
Once the Hawks took Huerter with the No. 19 pick, it didn’t take long for the comparisons of Young and Huerter to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors to rise in the conversation. Of course, the parallels are more about role and style of play than talent level.
Between them, Curry and Thompson have made nine All-Star appearances, won two MVPs and are each three-time NBA champions with plenty of basketball still ahead of them. The Hawks would be thrilled to see any semblance of that type of success from Young and Huerter in the next five to ten years.
The impetus of the comparisons certainly are driven, at least in part, by the fact that Hawks’ general manager Travis Schlenk’s tenure with the Warriors coincided with Golden State’s rise. Schlenk’s reputation as a talent evaluator, cultivated in Oakland, helped land him the job with the Hawks.
The Hawks, and Schlenk, played supporting roles in last summer’s draft when they took John Collins with the No. 19 pick and Tyler Dorsey in the second round. But in last night’s draft, the Hawks and Schlenk were center stage. Less than 48 hours later, the reviews are mixed, as some are heralding the elite shooting potential of the players the Hawks added while citing the major question marks around the defensive profile of Young, Huerter and Spellman.
Grades and reviews in the hours following a draft are both silly and fun. However, those of us who like to prognosticate and analyze even the tiniest details of the draft might be hesitant to admit that said analysis and grades will begin to fade as the NBA summer league rolls around and training camp leads up to the opening of the regular season.
Still, at this point in time, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the draft grades and corresponding analysis associated with the Warriors’ selections of Curry and Thompson when they were selected nine and seven years ago, respectively.
When the Warriors drafted Curry with the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, ESPN’s Chad Ford assigned the Warriors a grade of incomplete and cited that Curry could be a good back court pairing with Monta Ellis as “neither guy is a pure point guard.” The incomplete grade stemmed from a rumored potential trade of the Warriors sending a package of players, including Curry, to Phoenix for Amar’e Stoudemire. Of course, that trade never happened.
Bleacher Report awarded the Warriors a grade of A. They asked the rhetorical question as to whether Curry would be too small to pair in the back court with Ellis in addition to the common conception that Curry “can’t play defense.” Bleacher Report answered that question with “That’s ok. Don Nelson really doesn’t care about that anyway.”
The immediate conclusions of the Curry selection were pretty much a consensus that he would be an electric shooter but that he was a shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body and he would struggle to handle defensive assignments. Though Young and Curry do not fit the same exact profile, as Young does profile a natural point guard, some of the questions that were attached to Curry apply to Young as he enters the league.
Two years after selecting Curry, the Warriors drafted Thompson with the No. 11 pick in the 2011 draft. Bleacher Report graded this selection a C and cited that the Warriors had “a wealth of wings and guards and would have been better off reaching for a big.”
Fox Sports didn’t grade the pick, but they did laud the pick but assessed that Thompson would “give the Warriors roughly the same things Kevin Martin gives the Houston Rockets.”
Tom Ziller of SB Nation gave the Warriors a grade of D+. He noted that Thompson would add shooting but that, defensively, Curry and Thompson would be “an awful porous backcourt.” And, to put it plainly, the major questions about Curry and Thompson as a back court pairing were certainly not limited to Ziller’s opinion.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and none of this look back is intended to question the instant analysis provided by those we highlighted here. Rather, when instant reactions fuel doubt, it can be interesting, and even encouraging, to recall that many were wrong about players who have gone on to be elite players, especially when those players have some loose comparative association to players one’s favorite team selected on June 21.
Only time will tell when it comes to truly evaluating Atlanta’s 2018 draft class but history can be an interesting guide, at least in the meantime.