After another season of mediocrity, Atlanta Hawks fans are angered about the franchise and it’s future. This year marked the 10th straight year the Hawks made the playoffs, but they only have one conference championship appearence in that stretch. The only other team that has an active double-digit streak is the San Antonio Spurs (20 years), but they have 5 NBA championships across that period.
The Hawks are arguably the most mediocre team in NBA history, with a franchise record of 2,693-2,695 (1949-2017). Being mediocre is the worst place to be in the NBA for many reasons. The Hawks playoff streak isn’t impressive when you consider their failure in the playoffs. That lack of success has certainly affected the franchise. The mediocrity has cost the franchise attendance, stars, and good draft picks. The Hawks finished 26th in attendance this season, and the biggest star that the Hawks have signed in free agency over the past five years has been washed-up center Dwight Howard. On top of that, the Hawks have not obtained a lottery pick (excluding trades) since 2007, when they picked Al Horford #3 overall.
After finishing the regular season with a 43-39 record (5th seed) and suffering another first round exit to the Washington Wizards, Principal Owner Tony Ressler hired former Warriors Assistant GM Travis Schlenk to General Manager and President of Basketball Operations for the Hawks. Ressler reassigned former GM Wes Wilcox and stripped Coach Budenholzer of his title as President of Basketball Operations. Schlenk spent five years in the Assistant GM role for the Golden State Warriors and was heavily involved in drafting Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Here is what Schlenk needs to do to make Hawks fans happy.
Get Rid of the Hawks’ Bad Contracts and Avoid Signing Expensive Long-Term Deals.
The Hawks made two terrible decisions last summer by signing Dwight Howard to a 3yr/$70mil deal and Kent Bazemore to a 4yr/$72mil deal. Even though Howard averaged a double-double last season, it was clear that he did not fit into the system. Kent Bazemore averaged a mere 11 points per game. Both players limit the Hawks in free agency by taking up a lot of cap space, and are players that do not need to be on the floor. Schlenk has a big decision to make on 32-year-old forward Paul Millsap. The Hawks can offer Millsap a deal north of 30 million dollars, so the Hawks really need to be smart before investing their remaining cap space on an aging, undersized forward.
Select a Good Player in the NBA Draft.
From his time at Golden State, it seems that Schlenk’s strength is drafting talent that other teams don’t spot quickly enough. Schlenk drafted Stephen Curry at #7, Klay Thompson at #11, and Draymond Green at #35. The Hawks haven’t had much success in either round for a while. Since 2010, the only draft picks who made a big impact on the team have been Dennis Schroder (2013 #17) and Taurean Prince (2016 #12). The Hawks have also had a tough time drafting in the second round, as Mike Scott (2012 #43) has been the only 2nd round pick that has gotten any playing time with the Hawks. Some picks (Marcus Eriksson and Dimitrios Agravanis) haven’t even been on the Hawks roster (overseas prospects). The Hawks have the #19 pick in the NBA Draft this year, which will be Travis Schlenk’s first draft selection with the Hawks. A good pick will be important due to the weaknesses in the frontcourt and at the backup point guard position.
Bring a Star to Atlanta.
The NBA is a league driven by stars. Every historically great team has had a fair share superstar players. These players draw fans to the arena, make the team better, and allows the team to get more attention from the national media. The Hawks have not had a true star since Joe Johnson, which has made their team very inconsistent late in the game. The NBA is an entertainment business, and stars are entertaining. Travis Schlenk was heavily involved in the signing of Kevin Durant, so Hawks fans should have hope in free agency and the trade market. Atlanta is a basketball city, but many of the fans aren’t even Hawks fans. Adding a big time talent would draw those fans to the team.
Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox left Travis Schlenk a bad roster with bad long-term deals, a bad draft pick, and not much cap flexibility. Despite these obstacles, Hawks fans are optimistic that Schlenk can steer this franchise away from mediocrity.