The Atlanta Hawks won a team-record 60 games last year and return all four All-Stars from a year ago — but lost their fifth starter in DeMarre Carroll to free agency this summer when he signed a four-year, $60-million dollar contract with the Toronto Raptors. The Hawks won’t catch anyone by surprise this year and need to rely on an excellent player-development staff to hope one swingman on the roster can adequately step up. When it comes to drafting, the Hawks have done a decent job, as most of their picks in the last five years remain in the league today.
Ever since coach Mike Budenholzer arrived in the summer of 2013, the Hawks have been built similarly to the San Antonio Spurs. The key acquisitions made in free agency have made this transition faster than most turnarounds, as Atlanta hasn’t had huge impact from its draftees, although backup point guard Dennis Schroder took a step last year and is looking to take another this year. It should be a challenging season for Atlanta as they look to remain on top of the Eastern Conference, but how have their recent drafts impacted the team’s current success?
The 2011 draft might’ve been Atlanta’s worst. After trading their 2011 first-round pick to Washington for Kirk Hinrich(!), Atlanta only had one pick in the second round. The Hawks took big man Keith Benson at 48th overall — which looked like a great pickup at the time for a team in desperate need of some size. But Benson was waived before the lockout-shortened season, and he’s been struggling to make a roster ever since. Benson last played for Miami during the 2015 preseason, but couldn’t catch on after five games.
Relative to expectations, the Hawks’ draft picks were somewhat of a mixed bag in 2012. It was a standard draft for Atlanta, with one pick in both the first and second round. At pick 23, the Hawks took sharpshooting guard John Jenkins. Jenkins was never able to crack the rotation during his time as a Hawk, but has looked pretty good for Dallas this year as Rick Carlisle’s mini reclamation project. It’s possible he develops into a shooter off the bench. At pick 43 in the second round, Atlanta selected stretch forward Mike Scott. Scott has proven to be a solid addition, giving the Hawks extra depth as a shooter — and he was re-signed in August 2014 for that very reason.
The 2013 draft was coach Budenholzer’s first with the team, and it should be no surprise that it might be Atlanta’s most successful of the last five years. The Hawks had four picks — two in the first and two in the second — but did some trading to end up with three solid prospects who remain in the league today. Big man Lucas Nogueira was the 16th pick by Dallas in 2013 and was traded to the Hawks for the 18th pick. Nogueira didn’t come overseas initially and was traded in June 2014 to the Toronto Raptors. Nogueira could play a role for Toronto this season.
The Hawks selected Schroder one pick later, and he’s getting better and better as the backup behind Jeff Teague. The young German recently made some waves about wanting to start and possibly looking for a trade if that didn’t happen, so that’ll be a situation to monitor moving forward.
Finally, stretch big man Mike Muscala was the Hawks’ lone second-round pick, and he brings Atlanta depth and perimeter ability off the bench.
In the 2014 draft, Atlanta had one first-round pick and one second-rounder. Big man Adreian Payne was their 15th pick overall, but he couldn’t make it onto the floor for a team that went on to win 60 games — thus he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in February 2015. It’s unclear if Payne is an NBA player given his struggles at an older age (24), but the talent was there for the Wolves to give him a shot.
The Hawks’ second-round pick was 7-foot-3 center Walter Tavares, who the Hawks hope can give them a presence similar to the one Rudy Gobert brought Utah last season. It might take some time for Tavares to reach that level of impact, but the size and length (7-9 wingspan) are definitely there.
Atlanta made a questionable draft decision in 2015, trading away the 15th overall pick (which ended up being talented swingman Kelly Oubre) for the 19th pick, which the Hawks again traded to the New York Knicks for struggling guard Tim Hardaway Jr. The Hawks are taking a chance on Hardaway as the shooting guard has struggled, but he has the physical tools to be a plus defender and maybe a 3-and-D type down the line. The departure of Carroll left Hardaway with a chance to make an immediate impact, but right now he’s not in the rotation, so the trade isn’t looking great.
The Hawks took two international prospects late in this draft, hoping they can develop into something down the line. Swingman Marcus Eriksson has all the tools of an NBA shooting guard, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and meniscus last season. Big man Dimitrios Agravanis is a bit of an unknown, but is still only 20 and has been playing professionally overseas since 2012, so perhaps he provides something at some point.
It’s apparent the Hawks will be in contention for a while under coach Budenholzer, and his draft decisions have been pretty solid since joining Atlanta in 2013. With a talented roster and smart personnel decisions, it’s easy to see the Spurs influence with Budenholzer running the show. While I have questions about 2015, both the 2013 and 2014 drafts look really good in hindsight, and I won’t be too surprised if the Hawks continue their draft success in the coming years just based off Budenholzer’s (and the Spurs) reputation as talent evaluators.