Hawks’ Schlenk Talks Free Agency, Draft, Teague, More

After waiting out the first few days of free agency and then making modest moves in each of the last couple summers, the Hawks are in position to be more aggressive during 2020’s free agent period, general manager Travis Schlenk said on Monday, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta may have the most cap room of any NBA team this offseason, though Schlenk cautioned that that doesn’t mean the Hawks will spend wildly when the new league year begins.

“If there are guys that we think are good fits, we might be out of the gates a little bit sooner,” Schlenk said. “I think the thing I’m always hesitant of is a lot of the times the first couple of contracts handed out might not be the best ones that look the best on paper.

“I think it’s conceivable that we might make some offers (well) before we have in the past, but whether or not agents or players jump at the offers we make right away or see if there’s something better out there might prevent us from signing someone right away. I do anticipate us being a little more assertive in free agency, but it all depends on the cap and if it shrinks.”

According to Kirschner, the Hawks have a Zoom meeting scheduled for Tuesday in which they plan to examine all 29 other NBA teams, determining which cap exceptions they’ll have and how they might use them. That will give Atlanta a better idea of which of its own targets might be available and how might those players might cost.

As Kirschner details, Schlenk and the Hawks would ideally like to add younger players who can grow along with the current core — Clint Capela, who turns 26 next month, was a player who fit that bill. Schlenk also won’t hesitate to create competition on the roster for young players by adding veterans who can help the team win, since he’d rather have too much depth than not enough.

Schlenk offered up several more interesting tidbits on Monday. Let’s round up a few…

  • The Hawks plan to keep their lottery pick unless “some great offer came our way and it’s something we couldn’t turn down,” according to Schlenk. As Kirschner relays, Atlanta also plans to take the best player available rather than focusing on a specific position. “We’re not in a position when you start picking (for need) that high in the draft,” Schlenk said. “I think it’s a mistake to draft on need unless the talent is equal, but you look for the best talent when you draft that high.”
  • When the Hawks acquired Jeff Teague earlier in the season, they reportedly envisioned him as a player who could re-sign with the team and serve as Trae Young‘s backup beyond this season. It’s unclear how seriously Atlanta is still mulling that possibility. According to Kirschner, Schlenk thought the veteran point guard “struggled getting comfortable” with the Hawks. “I think he was still trying to feel out the situation,” Schlenk said. “I don’t think we saw what Jeff Teague has left in those 25 games that he was here with us. He’s going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and obviously backup point guard is going to be a position (of need) for us. And we’ll have that dialogue with he and his agent at the proper time.”
  • Asked to evaluate the Hawks’ performance in 2019/20, Schlenk gave the team an incomplete grade, pointing to John Collins‘ 25-game suspension, Capela’s inability to suit up due to injury, and – of course – the NBA’s hiatus as roadblocks that prevented the team from making a complete assessment. “I think the positives are after we got healthy, our most productive group was our draft picks on the floor,” the Hawks’ GM said, per Kirschner. “That’s obviously the exciting and positive part of it all.”
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