Am I surprised that the incompetent Hawks front office managed to botch a surefire #3 lottery pick in this year’s draft? Well, the answer is yes and no. This is the same organization that signed Iso-Joe Johnson to a 6 year 119 million dollar deal that still might go down as one of the worst contracts in NBA history. That’s an article for another day, and it seems like many Atlanta fans (including myself) have gotten over the infamous contract held the organization hostage for so many years. It seems like just yesterday the Hawks were winning 60 regular season games, and going head to head with Lebron James for a chance to call themselves Eastern Conference champions. But who are we kidding here? A lot has changed since 2015. We’ve witnessed a Dwight Howard sighting, the loss of two veteran players in Jeff Teague and Paul Milsap, and the ultimate decimation of a solid core that resulted in an Eastern Conference-worst record of 24-58. Regardless, it’s a new era for Atlanta and there was (and maybe still is) a lot to be excited about. After parting ways with coach Mike Budenholzer in April, it was clear the Hawks were preparing for a rebuild. A fresh start is exactly what the doctor ordered.
So what do the Hawks do with their clean slate? They do what they always do. They scribble all over it like a bunch of kindergarteners who just discovered how markers work for the first time. Having a top 5 pick in the NBA draft is generally a layup in terms of minimizing risk while also getting a young player with a superstar level ceiling. We don’t need to go into the Anthony Bennett’s and Darko Milicic’s of the world. I refused to let that kind of negativity ruin what was supposed to be an exciting draft night for Hawks’ fans everywhere. As I waited in anticipation to see who would be the new face of the franchise with the number three pick, I had one thought running through my brain. “PLEASE DON’T F THIS UP.”
At worst, I figured we’d go with the Euro superstar Luka Doncic. A Ricky Rubio 2.0 if you will. And yes, I realize that’s giving the new and improved man-bun Ricky Rubio entirely too much credit. The only reason I’m comparing the two is because they both had professional experience and excelled against superior competition at the ripe old age of 16. Doncic while a bit slow, is a very large guard at 6″8. He’s a complete player with fantastic vision, and a very intuitive feel for the game at such a young age.
I was also very high on drafting another big to complement our athletic stud, John Collins. Whether it was the lanky Mo Bamba to give us rim protection and a solid motor, or floor stretching dual threats like Jaren Jackson Jr., or Wendell Carter Jr, I was optimistic about endless possibilities. The clock is ticking and the Hawks are on the board. It’s finally announced that the Hawks selected have Luka Doncic with the third overall pick. Although not overjoyed, I wasn’t upset either. Even if Doncic doesn’t prove to be a superstar, he has the fundamentals and potential to be an extremely solid player in the league. He has a lower ceiling than some of the flashier names out there, but stability is key when you’re organization is rebuilding.
You’ve got to be kidding me
I was content with the pick and ready to keep the night moving. The only way I can describe the next series of events is a parallel to a Billy Mays (RIP) OxyClean commercial. “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!” In a cheesy infomercial 2 for 1 type discount special, Atlanta traded Luka Doncic and a protected first-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for the rights to PG Trae Young out of Oklahoma. Dallas gets a potential international superstar that will most likely inherit Dirk’s fanbase once he’s long gone. And what do we get? A whole lot of questions.
Is Trae Young all hype?
I’m not going to sit here and bash Trae Young. The kid had a phenomenal freshman season. He electrifies crowds with his handles, shoots from the logo with his eyes closed, and has the ability to find his teammates for easy baskets in traffic. However, if anyone watched the second half of the NCAA season it was pretty clear that Young struggled down the stretch. The 38-foot bombs that went down so effortlessly started to turn into enough bricks to build a modest home on rims all over the US. His slight frame at 6’2 180 pounds made him a defensive liability at the college level. He frequently struggled to fight through screens and man up on larger guards. These problems will just be exacerbated as he plays against better competition. The point is, Young’s ceiling is most definitely out of this world, but his floor has the potential to be basement level if he doesn’t develop as quickly as everyone expects. The real question is, why risk it? Many analysts are on the record saying this was one of the best drafts since the infamous 2003 draft that included Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. But Atlanta somehow manages to go all in on a player that has the most potential to be a complete bust? We can only hope for the best. But I think the saying goes that hope only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades? Whatever, close enough. But wait! There’s more!
Who the hell is Kevin Huerter?
The real gut punch of this draft was the 19th pick being used on Maryland SG Kevin Huerter. Who the hell is that you might ask? Exactly. Huerter is a 6’7 SG sharpshooter that’s basically a great value Kroger brand version of Klay Thompson without the lockdown perimeter defense. Once this pick was finalized it was plain as day where Travis Schlenk was going with this new roster. Schlenk was the Warriors assistant GM before landing at the Hawks front office, and it’s evident that he’s trying to emulate something I’m afraid is only a once in a lifetime thing. It’s already tough enough to gauge talent at the NBA level. Trying to recreate one of the most dynamic and pure shooting backcourts of all time is a daunting task. All in all, it just feels all too reminiscent of Atlanta sports in general. A culture constantly playing catch up to remain relevant with flash and dash. If Trae Young can pull off that hideous shorts suit he sported on draft night, maybe he has something up else up his sleeves (or lack thereof).