Update: The Hawks traded the No. 41 pick to the Golden State Warriors and the post below has been updated.
The Atlanta Hawks are one of the NBA’s most exciting young teams, with an intriguing core headlined by Trae Young and John Collins. In addition, Travis Schlenk has amassed an array of valuable assets, including four of the top-35 picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. To that end, the Hawks are drawing national attention for all of the possibilities in play when the draft (finally) arrives on Thursday and, in advance of the proceedings, we’ll take a look at everything that is in play for Atlanta.
At the outset, it is important to recognize that, well, virtually no one has any idea what the Hawks are actually going to do. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic wrote this week that the Hawks are “the team who wins the award for most unclear information in the industry this draft season” and, with the simple reality that the Hawks do not want to enter training camp with five rookies, movement is almost sure to follow.
The current picks
Even with the clear potential for draft-day trades, it is wise to evaluate the position that the Hawks are currently in on the board. Atlanta has three first-round picks — No. 8, No. 10 and No. 17 — and, even in a draft that most consider to be uninspiring when compared to some other iterations, that trio is valuable. From there, the Hawks have a second round selection at No. 35 overall that could be used in myriad ways.
It’s a free-for-all for the Hawks right now in terms of trade chatter. During the week of the draft, reporting emerged that Atlanta was actively engaged in negotiations to move up the No. 3 or No. 4 on the board, presumably with an eye toward R.J. Barrett, Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter. It should be noted that the New York Knicks (at No. 3) reportedly declined Atlanta’s offer (one that was also rumored in May) and, if the Hawks were to aim for the No. 4 spot, Barrett is likely to be off the board.
In addition, there is separate reporting that links the Hawks to a number of prospects. Culver has been a frequent focus of rumors, dating back to before the lottery. ESPN indicates that the Hawks are “very high” on Hunter and the Virginia product elected to work out for Atlanta. Reddish has been tied to the Hawks for months (and months... and months...) and is the widely projected choice for Schlenk and the front office if the No. 8 pick is utilized. Finally, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Nassir Little’s “draft range likely begins with the Hawks at No. 8,” adding fuel to the fire.
Ultimately, there is a widespread belief that the Hawks are aiming to consolidate picks and, particularly through the lens of the second round, that is a sentiment backed up by Schlenk’s own words. From a pure value standpoint, a deal using No. 8 and No. 10 to jump into the top four seems to be an overpay but, in contrast, Atlanta has a need for two-way wing options and, if Schlenk views one of the prospects in questions (Culver, Hunter, etc.) as “his guy,” it is easy to see why the Hawks might be motivated into aggressive action.
As a point of personal analysis, Culver would be the preferred target in a trade-up scenario, as he brings more offensive upside than Hunter and profiles as a potential secondary ball-handler that would fit snugly with Trae Young. Ideally, the Hawks would be able to find more “star talent” with a move into the top five but, in short, the 2019 class isn’t known for its top-tier upside and Culver, in my view, is the best bet of the widely discussed targets.
Cheat sheet by draft slot
It’s not likely (at all) that the Hawks will make their five projected picks but, as a shortcut of sorts, here are some intriguing (and seemingly realistic) possibilities at each current draft slot... at least according to the writer of this post.
- No. 8 — Jarrett Culver (wildly unlikely, but optimal), De’Andre Hunter (pretty unlikely), Cam Reddish, Nassir Little, Goga Bitadze
- No. 10 — Anyone who drops from the previous list, Jaxson Hayes, Brandon Clarke, Sekou Doumbouya
- No. 17 — Anyone who drops from the previous lists, Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington, Kevin Porter, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Grant Williams
- No. 35 — Anyone who drops from the previous lists, Ty Jerome, Eric Paschall, Chuma Okeke, Dylan Windler, Bruno Fernando, Darius Bazley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Daniel Gafford, Jontay Porter, Terence Davis
In the end, the Atlanta Hawks could do just about anything (short of acquiring Zion Williamson) on draft night and, while that isn’t necessarily a satisfying reality before the proceedings begin, it should be wildly intriguing to monitor.