The Atlanta Hawks are wheeling and dealing already, adding to the intrigue of this offseason. But what exactly are the Hawks planning?
Maybe Travis Schlenk and Sean Marks are master chess players and the rest of the league is playing checkers. The NBA Finals have yet to finish and the Atlanta Hawks are already making waves with an offseason trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
It will be the second trade between the teams in as many years.
As first reported by ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets have agreed to send Allen Crabbe, the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft and a 2020 first-round pick that is lottery protected to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Taurean Waller-Prince and a 2021 second-round selection.
On one hand, the Nets are the bigger story right now as they are signaling to the rest of the NBA they have cash to spend on big-name free agents. They have made shrewd moves with Marks as their general manager by moving on from bad contracts and taking on other contracts.
They have also been accumulating assets to help in obtaining even better assets, as evidenced in this trade.
But the Atlanta Hawks want to prove they are set on the own process of becoming a contender in the near future and now have three top-20 draft picks this year. Add in their three second-round tickets and the Hawks have a lot of flexibility.
In addition to this year’s draft picks, they could potentially have three first-round picks in 2020 as well.
With their own pick, they could add the Cleveland Cavaliers’ protected first (which isn’t has heavily protected as it was this year) and now the Nets’ protected first from next year, which isn’t heavily protected at all. Perhaps their biggest asset though is salary cap space.
While the Hawks took on the massive contract of Allen Crabbe ($18.5 million in 2019-20) in place of Prince’s cheap contract ($3.5 million next year), Crabbe represents one of a few expiring contracts that come off the books next summer for Atlanta, making this a win-win for both sides.
Prince is eligible for a significant, long-term raise via a rookie-scale extension this summer, something the Hawks haven’t been interested in doing since last offseason, so this was a big return for them.
But what is the ultimate goal here for Schlenk and the Atlanta Hawks? He has made it public before this trade that five rookies would be overkill for the team this season; six potential rookies would seem to garner the same reaction.
Let’s work through each of these scenarios, starting with the draft and stash option. Given their youth and already strong skill set, drafting a big such as Sekou Doumbouya or Goga Bitadze and then letting them play at least another year overseas could prove valuable.
However, to draft either of these players specifically, they would likely have to use their No. 8 or No. 10 pick on one of them.
Names such as Luka Samanic or Deividas Sirvydis profile well as shooters that could eventually fit in for Atlanta, but they need to make strides before making an NBA roster. Either of these two could be worth the gamble for the Hawks in the second round to stash.
If the Hawks just straight up trade these picks, as Woj indicated in his tweets, it could be any number of their six picks depending on who plays ball with them. But let’s be realistic with trade ideas here.
Zion Williamson should be another once-in-a-generation player, and with the New Orleans Pelicans looking like they’ll lose Anthony Davis, let’s assume they will cling to the No. 1 pick for dear life.
Three players who’s combined upside may not reach what Williamson could potentially give the Pelicans means the Hawks trading up to No. 1 isn’t impossible, but is highly improbable.
And there is no reason to move up to No. 2 as the Grizzlies are all but sure they are planning to take Ja Morant. The Hawks already have their point guard of the future and there is no reason to trade up before the No. 3 pick to get their guy when they don’t have to.
That leaves the New York Knicks at No.3, the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 4 and the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 5 as the perfect trade suitors for the Hawks at this moment. Atlanta has been linked to Jarrett Culver, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, but we’ll get to them in a moment.
One guy that the Hawks could obtain before the three mentioned is above is another Duke alum, R.J. Barrett. Many would agree that he would look pretty good in a backcourt with Trae Young.
However, if the Knicks are trying to appeal to Anthony Davis, they may not have that pick or they may want Barrett themselves to play alongside Davis. It would most likely take all three firsts (or two first this year and potentially one from 2020) to get the Knicks to entertain this idea.
Back to the trio of Culver, Hunter and Reddish, the third Duke star in this year’s draft is the one of the three most likely to fall to No. 8. So if they Hawks are targeting Hunter or Culver, they may want to move up to No. 4 or 5.
It’s hard to get a pulse on the Lakers right now, but its hard to imagine them bringing in more youth to the team when LeBron James wants them to sign big-name free agents to push for a championship.
That leaves the Cavaliers at No. 5, which would still be a great landing spot for the Hawks to add what they need if they don’t think their player will be there at No. 8. The Cavaliers are in need of talent period. Kevin Love is OK, but is he staying with the team much longer?
Collin Sexton is their future point guard, but he needs a lot more help around him. Gaining Nos. 8, 10 and 17 from the Hawks would solve a lot of those problems as they work on their own rebuild.
The Atlanta Hawks have started the offseason with a bang and their bevy of picks should allow them to do a lot of things. Many teams will be watching where big free agents go, but the Hawks have made sure they won’t be left out of the headlines either this offseason.