A six step guide to completing the most successful rebuild in NBA history.
For three years after the departure of Danny Ferry, the Atlanta Hawks and their fans endured a series of regrettable front office moves from the general manager duo of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox, including the unwillingness to trade Al Horford and the signing of Dwight Howard. While new general manager Travis Schlenk has to deal with the effects of their mistakes, smart free agency moves and a particularly loaded NBA Draft class have given the Hawks a rare opportunity to avoid the lengthy, painful rebuild that so many franchises have endured. Here is what the Hawks should do in order to put themselves in position to be competitive sooner rather than later.
Step 1. Trade Dennis Schröder to Phoenix
HAWKS GET: Phoenix Suns’ First Round Pick
SUNS GET: PG Dennis Schröder, 1st Round Pick (Via Los Angeles Clippers)
Yes, we’re starting off this list with a bang. Trading Schröder is unquestionably a risk for Atlanta, as they know they can count on him for 20 points and several assists a night. However, Schröder gambles too much on defense, which is not acceptable for a five-year veteran. He also is not even in the top 40 among point guards for Real Plus-Minus, a stat that is a good indicator of player efficiency. Schröder is 13th in the league in usage rate, so one could argue that almost any player used as much as he is with as little talent as he has surrounding him should average 20 points and 6 assists, as he does.
The upcoming draft is loaded with talent. Trading Schröder, Atlanta’s best player, to Phoenix will not only give Atlanta a great chance at the number one overall pick, but it will also likely give them another top 5 pick, as Phoenix’s season isn’t exactly running smoothly. If Phoenix is willing to complete this deal, Travis Schlenk should take advantage.
Step 2. Trade Dewayne Dedmon to Boston
HAWKS GET: PG Marcus Smart
CELTICS GET: C Dewayne Dedmon, 1st Round Pick (Via Timberwolves)
Dewayne Dedmon has been a great fit in coach Budenholzer’s system, but this plan involves shedding everyone who is not a part of the long term plan. Boston’s weak spot is frontcourt depth behind Al Horford, and Dedmon could be a great addition on the glass come playoff time. Dedmon doesn’t require the ball to be effective, so he would blend nicely in Brad Stephens’ system.
Getting Smart from Boston would give the Hawks a short-term replacement for Schröder and a nice combo guard who is a stingy defender, something Coach Budenholzer values. Smart would also provide insurance in case whoever they draft at point guard with the Suns’ pick (more on that later) doesn’t work out. Smart’s contract doesn’t expire until after next season, so the Hawks would have at least a full year with point guard stability to weigh their options.
Step 3. Trade Marco Bellinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to Toronto
HAWKS GET: PF Pascal Siakam, Second Round Pick
RAPTORS GET: SG Marco Bellinelli, PF Ersan Ilyasova
Bellinelli and Ilyasova are valuable veteran players but not part of the Hawks future. The Raptors, who are in “win-now” mode, lack perimeter shooting and Bellinelli could solve this problem when it starts to become exposed in the playoffs. Ilyasova would give the Raptors some veteran experience and frontcourt depth, as well as the ability to stretch the defense.
Siakam is an intriguing young player who, when paired with John Collins, would form an incredibly athletic frontcourt. Siakam can run the floor and finish at the rim, and his length allows him to disrupt passing lanes and block shots. He is high energy, and his versatility fits well with Budenholzer’s ball-movement system.
Step 4. Trade Kent Bazemore to Cleveland
HAWKS GET: First Round Pick, C Ante Zizic, G Iman Shumpert
CAVS GET: G Kent Bazemore, F Luke Babbitt
Bazemore is a player the Cavs have reportedly already shown interest in this season, and they could certainly use his defense and shooting when they play the Warriors in the Finals. Bazemore also gives great energy every night, something that seems to be lacking in Cleveland these days. Babbitt is really more of a deal sweetener; a solid shooter on a low-risk contract.
The rebuilding Hawks could always use another first-round pick.. Shumpert wouldn’t fit in at all in Atlanta but he can be moved later on. Zizic hasn’t shown any true NBA potential yet, but Budenholzer and his staff have a knack for bringing out the best of minimally talented players.
Step 5. Draft Marvin Bagley III.
Certain lottery pick Luka Doncic of Slovenia is a versatile guard who has dominated the best competition outside the NBA. However, nothing he has faced can compare with the talent and athleticism in the NBA, and he is a bit unathletic for a guard. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton is an athletic center who is a great rebounder and finisher, but that isn’t the kind of player the Hawks need at this point.
Duke freshman Bagley, in my opinion, is the best player in the draft. He is a lengthy power forward who plays more like a small forward. He’s got a smooth outside jumper, and he is unstoppable when he drives to the rim. His impressive scoring arsenal has led to over 21 points and 11 rebounds a game at Duke. Bagley is the kind of player that only comes around once every few years, so drafting him should be a no-brainer.
Step 6. Draft Trae Young With Phoenix’s Pick
Is he the ideal size for an NBA point guard? No. Is he the most athletic player out there? No. But his 30 points and 9.5 assists per game don’t lie. Oklahoma’s Trae Young simply possesses the “it” factor that no Hawks player has had since Dominique Wilkins. He can shoot the lights out of the gym and does so on a regular basis for the Sooners. He’s a willing passer who leads the team in scoring while still managing to make his teammates better. He also finishes well at the rim for a point guard.
Young’s defense is the weakest part of his game, but Budenholzer is the right coach to help him improve there. Young probably won’t be as good as Schröder in the short term. However, because of his natural basketball instincts and playmaking ability, he has a ceiling that Schröder may never reach. Passing on him would be a big misstep for the Hawks. If for some reason he proves not to be ready to play at the NBA level, the Hawks will still have Marcus Smart as insurance and a full year to either develop Young or see what the trade market has to offer.
Following this plan would be bold, but in the end I believe it would be worth it. The Hawks picked the perfect year to tank, as the upcoming draft is loaded with talent. They also have many assets and a solid young core already in place (John Collins, Taurean Prince, etc.) that could be given a huge boost by the additions of Young and Bagley.
Atlanta has an opportunity to pull off a historically successful rebuild and alter the course of the franchise. They would be missing out big time if they chose not to take it.