Travis Schlenk

Hawks GM Talks Draft Prep, Finishing The Season

The NBA handed out revised guidelines for teams during the pre-draft process last month, as they are unable to meet with prospects in person. Clubs are allowed to meet with potential draftees for up to two hours in any meeting and a maximum of four hours per week with any one player. GM Travis Schlenk explains to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic how the Hawks have navigated those waters.

“I feel like we’ve talked to every player in college basketball,” Schlenk said. “Our (meetings) usually last between 30 to 45 minutes. We haven’t interviewed any player twice up until this point. We have set up as many interviews as we can. We probably do 12 a week or so. Usually, we do four days a week. So about 16 guys, but we probably average around 12 or 13.”

Atlanta has averaged 18 executives on each of the Zoom calls, according to Schlenk. While it may seem like a lot of people for a video conference, it allows the Hawks to get various opinions on each prospect as they determine rankings.

Schlenk also touched on the NBA returning this year. He said the Hawks are preparing as if the 2019/20 season will resume at some point — and as if they’ll be part of it.

“My message has been that it feels like we’re gaining positive momentum,” Schlenk said. “So it’s time to start changing our mental mindset from hiatus status to we’re coming back and to also start ramping up our workouts because we don’t want to be in a situation where we come back and we have a bunch of soft-tissue injuries because guys are out of shape.

“… We would play our guys,” Schlenk added when asked how the Hawks would handle a return. “The more time we can play our guys together, the better it is for us. To be able to see guys we made trades for play with our guys — those would be valuable minutes for us.”

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.”

Hawks Extend, Promote Travis Schlenk

3:39pm: The Hawks have formally issued a press release announcing that they’ve promoted Schlenk to president of basketball operations. The announcement doesn’t mention an extension, but it seems safe to assume that it’s official now too.

The Hawks also announced many more promotions and hires, including (but not limited to):

  • Dan Martinez to VP of team operations
  • Derek Pierce to VP of player personnel
  • Dotun Akinwale Jr. to director of scouting
  • Mike McNeive to director of player personnel
  • Daniel Starkman to senior manager of basketball operations
  • Nick Ressler to manager of basketball operations

“We are extremely pleased with the direction that Travis and our entire basketball operations team has us heading as a franchise,” Hawks owner Tony Ressler said in a statement. “He has used the draft to build an impressive young core, hired one of the NBA’s top young coaches in Lloyd Pierce and positioned us to have the cap space, draft picks and financial flexibility needed to have long-term success in the NBA.”

2:39pm: The Hawks have reached a deal with general manager Travis Schlenk on a new multiyear contract extension, reports Zach Klein of WSB-TV (Twitter link). Confirming Klein’s report, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that an official announcement from the team will likely come within the next day or so.

Schlenk took over as Atlanta’s head of basketball operations during the spring of 2017 after the team re-assigned GM Wes Wilcox and removed Mike Budenholzer‘s president of basketball operations title.

Since joining the Hawks, Schlenk has launched a full-fledged rebuild, accumulating draft assets and making strong use of his own first-round picks, having selected John Collins in 2017 and Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in 2018.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s lottery picks (De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish) will look as promising as Collins, Young, and Huerter have, and Schlenk faced some criticism for trading the pick that became Luka Doncic. Still, the former Warriors executive has the Hawks pointed in the right direction as one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams.

After going 24-58 during Schlenk’s first year running the show, the team won 29 games last season and will look to improve upon that number in 2019/20.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hawks Notes: Jones, Roster, Parker, Minutes

Former first-round pick and newly-acquired Hawks big man Damian Jones is looking to show off his talent in a way he wasn’t able to on a loaded Warriors’ roster, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jones, who says he is 100 percent recovered from last season’s injury, sees himself being able to provide Atlanta with rim protection, defense and a lob option around the basket.

“I haven’t really gotten a chance to show what I can do,” Jones said Friday at his introductory news conference. “… I still have more to prove.”

There’s more news out of Atlanta this afternoon from Vivlamore:

  • After waiving point guard Jaylen Adams, the Hawks now have a roster of 13 players and will look to sign another veteran to the roster and a second two-way player alongside Charlie Brown, per Vivlamore (link). Because Trae Young is now the lone point guard on the team, one of those signings will almost certainly be a point guard. As for the final standard roster spot, Atlanta plans to leave that vacant for the start of the season.
  • One of those 13 players is former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker. Parker, who saw his $20MM team option declined by the Wizards earlier this summer before signing with the Hawks on a two-year, $13MM deal earlier this week, says one the reasons he signed with Atlanta is because of the team’s medical staff and Parker’s confidence in them working with his twice surgically repaired left knee (Twitter link from Vivlamore).
  • As we relayed earlier this weekend, Young, big man John Collins , and rookie lottery selections De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will all see “a lot” of playing time during the 2019/20 season, per general manager Travis Schlenk.

Eastern Notes: Young, Westbrook, Siakam, Hawks

Thaddeus Young gives the Bulls a much-needed glue guy, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. Not only does Young fill the stat sheet but he also provides other valuable assets, such as contesting shots, staying in front of his man and forcing opponents to pass late in the shot clock, Smith adds. Young signed a three-year contract with Chicago that could be worth up to $43.6MM. Young will embrace a leadership role, as Sean Highkin of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “I know the task is very, very hard,” the former Pacers big man said. “I carry that weight each and every day. I know I can help these young guys get better, I know I can push them over the hump.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Adding Russell Westbrook would have made the Pistons better in the short term but it wasn’t worth the long-term risk, Keith Langlois of the team’s website opines. The Pistons couldn’t afford to give up future first-rounders and agree to pick swaps as Houston did to acquire Westbrook from Oklahoma City. With Blake Griffin‘s big contract and Andre Drummond holding an option to become a free agent next summer, the Pistons would not have been able to make any more notable future upgrades if they took on Westbrook’s huge contract, Langlois adds.
  • The Raptors might as well offer Pascal Siakam a max four- or five-year extension this summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca argues. Ben Simmons has reportedly received a similar offer from the Sixers, while Jamal Murray has already signed an extension with the Nuggets. Siakam has outperformed both of his peers in many categories, Grange notes. The Raptors also don’t have any salary-cap restraints in future seasons that would prevent them from maxing out Siakam, Grange adds.
  • Rookie of the Year finalist Trae Young and young big John Collins will see an increase in playing time, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lottery picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will also get thrown into the fire for the rebuilding Hawks. “Last year, Trae and John played about 30 minutes. They are probably going to play 35 minutes this year as they continue to grow,” Schlenk said. “De’Andre is obviously going to play a lot of minutes. Cam, we are going to play a lot.”

Hawks Rumors: Draft, Free Agency, Carter, Prince

If the Mavericks don’t luck out and nab a top-four draft pick via the lottery, the Hawks will own five of the top 44 selections in next month’s NBA draft. Currently, those picks project to land at Nos. 5, 9, 35, 41, and 44.

Speaking today to reporters, including Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, general manager Travis Schlenk acknowledged that the team is unlikely to bring five rookies to camp in the fall. In other words, the Hawks probably won’t use all five of those draft picks.

As Vivlamore notes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Hawks will trade one or more picks, though that’s certainly an option — the club could package two or three picks to move up, or could surrender one of its 2019 selections for a future pick or two. Another potential scenario for Atlanta would be going the draft-and-stash route, whereby the team drafts an international prospect who won’t be ready to immediately come stateside.

As we wait to see what the Hawks do with all those draft picks, here’s more from Schlenk:

  • The Hawks may have two top-10 picks in the draft, and they sound prepared to simply draft the best player available with those selections, regardless of positional overlap. “We are still in a development stage,” Schlenk said, per Vivlamore. “We feel good about the development we made this year but I think it’s important not to jump steps. We are still going to take the best players we can. You look at the playoffs now, position-less basketball is what is out there. We are going to keep getting the best talent we can, keep adding them to the mix and we’ll figure out how to blend them on the back end.”
  • Although Schlenk says there’s a “buzz” around the NBA about the Hawks’ young core, he doesn’t expect the team to be overly active in free agency this summer. As Vivlamore relays, Atlanta is more likely to wait to see what sort of players slip through the cracks after the initial wave of signings is over. “Once we show we are in contention, playoff contending, that’s when free agents are going to look at this group and say ‘I want to go there because we can take it to the next level,'” Schlenk said.
  • If and when the Hawks do pursue bigger-name free agents, the opportunity to play alongside Trae Young figures to be a selling point, according to Schlenk, who praised Young’s ability to set up his teammates and get them open shots.
  • Vince Carter said this week that he intends to return for his 22nd NBA season, and Schlenk “certainly wouldn’t have a problem” if Carter ends up re-signing with the Hawks, he said today, praising the veteran’s leadership in the locker room (link via Vivlamore).
  • Taurean Prince, considered one of the Hawks’ core players, will be eligible for a rookie scale extension starting in July. According to Vivlamore, Schlenk spoke to Prince’s agent on Thursday and said he expects to resume those discussions later in the offseason once Prince officially becomes extension-eligible.

Hawks’ GM Travis Schlenk: ‘We’re Looking For Future Assets’

With the Feb. 7 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Hawks are prioritizing the future in any transactions, general manager Travis Schlenk tells  Chris Kirchner of The Athletic.

“We’re looking for future assets,” Schlenk said. “We already have five picks in this draft and more than likely, two firsts and three seconds. Any of the deals we do will be future assets or a deal that maybe will increase our (cap) flexibility moving forward. We’re still on the same trajectory.”

On the current Hawks roster, veteran point guard Jeremy Lin, swingman Kent Bazemore,  forward Taurean Prince, and big man Dewayne Dedmon are all possible trade candidates. The emergence of John Collins and Atlanta’s first round pick from last summer, Trae Young, has given the Hawks a core to build around.

However, one year after not making a significant deal at the deadline last year, Schlenk also noted the team would not make a trade just for the sake of it.

 “We’re certainly listening to a lot of stuff, but we’re not going to do a bad deal or do a deal that will hamper our objectives,” he said.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Gordon, Wizards

The Hawks will host another pre-draft workout tomorrow morning with six participants, per an official release from the team. The headliners include Bruce Brown from Miami and De’Anthony Melton from USC.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Brown being selected by the Knicks in the second round at No. 36 overall in his current mock draft, while he has Melton going in the first round at No. 25 overall to the Lakers. The Hawks select at No. 3, 19, 30, and 34.

In addition to Brown and Melton, the Hawks will host Thon Maker‘s younger brother Matur Maker, Cameron Reynolds (Tulane), Yuta Watanabe (George Washington), and Johnathan Williams (Gonzaga).

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • As reported by John and Hugh of 92.9 The GameHawks’ GM Travis Schlenk is confident that he knows who Phoenix is planning to take at No. 1, meaning the team need only concern itself with Sacramento’s decision. Per Schlenk, the Hawks are down to “three or four guys” who they are contemplating taking with the No. 3 selection, but they are also open to trading back.
  • The Magic, armed with a new and experienced head coach in Steve Clifford, are turning their focus to the draft and free agency, analyzes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Most importantly, the team must decide what its plan is with the impending restricted free agency of forward Aaron Gordon. Marks opines that the Magic should sign Gordon as a future tradeable asset, if nothing else.
  • Candace Buckner of The Washington Post takes a look at the options the Wizards are thinking about with the No. 15 pick in this month’s NBA Draft. Three prospects that Buckner specifically mentions are point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV, and big man Robert Williams.

Hawks Notes: Pierce, Defense, Schroder

During his introductory press conference on Monday, new Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce talked about his passion for defense, and indicated that he’ll be looking for defensive-minded assistants as he starts putting together his staff in Atlanta, as Charles Odum of The Associated Press writes.

“If we weren’t doing this press conference right now, I’d probably have these guys doing some defensive drills,” Pierce said, referring to the Hawks players who attended the presser. “That’s who I am.”

In addition to the four Hawks who were in attendance on Monday, Sixers forward Robert Covington – who was in Atlanta visiting a family member – showed up to support the former Philadelphia assistant. Covington had nothing but praise for Pierce, calling him a “great coach” who is “absolutely” ready for his first head coaching job.

Here’s more out of Atlanta:

  • During Monday’s presser, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk said that he and Mike Budenholzer remain on good terms, despite the former head coach’s departure from Atlanta. “I talked with [Budenholzer] a couple days ago,” Schlenk said, per Odum. “No hard feelings at all.”
  • In a Q&A with Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Pierce spoke at length about the defensive strategies he employed in Philadelphia, which he’ll bring to the Hawks.
  • Dennis Schroder, who led the Hawks in points (19.4 PPG) and assists (6.2 APG) last season, made comments this week at a press conference in Germany that made it sound like he wouldn’t mind moving on from Atlanta. Schroder said he could imagine playing for teams like the Bucks and Pacers (Twitter link via David Hein), adding that he doesn’t want to keep finishing “second-to-last in the Eastern Conference” (link via Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net). Schroder is under contract for three more years at $15.5MM annually, but wasn’t drafted or extended by the current management group, so he could emerge as a trade candidate for the Hawks.

Hawks Notes: Ilyasova, Dorsey, Bembry

There has been considerable speculation that the Hawks will look into possible buyout options with forward Ersan Ilyasova, and rightfully so. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted as much shortly after the trade deadline.

At this point, however, the parties haven’t discussed such an arrangement. Hours after that initial tweet, Cunningham tweeted that Ilyasova himself isn’t looking for a buyout, so long as the team is playing to win games. On Friday, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution chipped in with a note that the 30-year-old hasn’t been approached about one either.

Ilyasova, who signed a one-year, $6MM deal with the club in the offseason, has averaged 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Hawks. He’d be a valuable addition to any contender looking to add versatile frontcourt depth heading into the final stretch of the season.

A testament to Ilyasova’s value is the fact that, as Cunningham mentioned in one of his aforementioned tweets, the team did have trade offers for him — he simply invoked his right to reject them.

There’s more out of Atlanta: