The 2018 NBA draft has come and gone and the guessing games on what the Hawks brass, in particular, first-year head coach Lloyd Pierce and general manager Travis Schlenk (in whatever order you’d like to place them) will do with their three first-round draft picks, have begun.
The moves have been made and the Hawks, for the most part, are better off in the end. The three draft picks, Oklahoma point guard Trae Young (fifth pick by Dallas, traded to Atlanta for third pick Luka Doncic and a 2019 protected first round pick), Kevin Huerter, a 6-7 shooter from the University of Maryland and Villanova versatile forward Omari Spellman are all headed to Atlanta in what will be a rebuilding process.
These players are all underclassmen, all battle-tested in tough collegiate conferences, and most importantly, all young enough to believe in their abilities and the future. The keywords during this rebuilding process will be future and patience. The Hawks drafted for the future and in that regard, the draft was a success. The Hawks fan base needs to be patient in order to properly see this process through. Future and Patience.
What the ticket-buying public must be aware of is that these players will not light the night on fire and reignite the Hawks former decade-long postseason streak. What will most likely happen is that Young will get plenty of opportunities to play and most likely start, Huerter and Spellman, on the other hand, will come off the bench.
Neither is a projected NBA starter and will have their moments on what is now one of the league’s youngest teams. That should be the expectation for both the Hawks and their fans — enjoy watching this young trio along with DeAndre Bembry, John Collins, Tyler Dorsey, Taurean Prince, all young men in their own right, and starting point guard Dennis Schroder (yes he’s still on the roster), also a young man at 24 years of age, play together.
Be patient, watch and enjoy the rebuild in the newly renovated Philips Arena. Remember the Golden State Warriors 2011-12 roster? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That team had finished 23-43 with Steph Curry and Monta Ellis in the backcourt and David Lee, Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson in the frontcourt. The lottery pick rookie that season, Klay Thompson, started 29 of 66 games and averaged just over 12 points per game. A season later the Warriors, under Mark Jackson, would be 47-35 and make it to the second round of the playoffs where they would lose to the San Antonio Spurs in 6 games.
The rookies they drafted that previous summer: Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and some guy named Draymond Green in the second round. Patience. The next season, the last under Jackson, the Warriors would be 51-31. Through those three seasons, the fan base stayed patient to the tune of the league attendance never dipping below 10th amongst the 30 teams in the league and getting as high as 5th. It’s needless to say that ticket sales have been solid since they have won three of the last four titles from that moment on.
The acquisition of a 2019 first round pick from a Dallas team that will most likely be back in the lottery next year might be the second best move of the 2018 draft. The first being The Phoenix Suns drafting Deandre Ayton, a player who not only wants to play for the Suns but is familiar with Arizona after having played high school and college ball in state.
The next best move was the Hawks getting a protected pick that, if it falls below the fifth pick, can be another key draft pick in 2019. Atlanta will most likely be in the lottery alongside Dallas next year and the possibility of having two lottery picks in an unpredictable draft class — Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Bol Bol, anyone? — can leave any Hawks fan salivating for the future. Patience, there’s that word again, needs to be the key to next offseason.
Young, Huerter, who has a hand injury and will not be participating in the Utah Summer League next week, and Spellman will all make the Hawks better. Unfortunately, in particular for Young who was an All-American last year and widely considered the most exciting individual player in all of college basketball, the expectations will be high, maybe a little too high. Patience will be the key.