The rebuilding Atlanta Hawks and the value of draft picks

He was once a draft pick, I remind you. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

You might think this is a silly trade: Getting Jamal Crawford — great guy, still a good player — who doesn’t want to be here and will wind up being either traded or bought out, and a Round 1 pick in next year’s draft from Houston, a team that probably will win 55 games and be nowhere near the lottery. You may think: What’s the point?

Asset acquisition.

The Atlanta Hawks are rebuilding, even though they dare not speak its name. The way you rebuild is to acquire as many assets as you can. Players are assets, yes. How does a rebuilding team get players? Via draft picks or trades.

The more assets you have, the better your opportunities to leverage them. As it stands, the Hawks figure to have three Round 1 picks in the 2018 draft — theirs, which will probably be a lottery pick; Houston’s, which won’t, and Minnesota’s, which has been dangling in limbo since the trade of Adreian Payne, their Round 1 pick in 2014, to the Timberwolves in February 2015.

The Hawks didn’t get to exercise the latter pick in this year’s draft because it’s lottery-protected and Minnesota landed therein yet again. With Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague joining Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the T-wolves should make the playoffs next season, meaning the Hawks will get that pick. It won’t be in the lottery, but still.

Let’s say the ping-pong balls leave the Hawks with the 10th pick next year. Let’s say they decide they really need — picking a local name — Wendell Carter Jr. of Pace Academy, soon to be the latest Duke one-and-done. Let’s say Carter is apt to be available at No. 6. They could say to the team holding that pick, “We’ll give you our three Round 1s in exchange.” (Not saying they would, mind you. Next year might be too early in the process to sacrifice that many assets. Just saying it’d be an option.)

Philadelphia spent the past few years losing games and amassing assets. When the lottery left the 76ers with the No. 3 pick and they needed one of the top two point guards available — Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball — they were able to trade that No. 3 pick and a future No. 1 to Boston, which had a slew of guards. (The Celtics wound up with Jayson Tatum, who’ll team with Jaylen Brown of Wheeler and now Gordon Hayward. Boston now has a slew of wings. Somewhere Billy Knight is smiling.)

The point being: When you don’t have many good players — and the Hawks absolutely don’t — you must collect every asset you can find. Draft picks might sound like ephemeral things, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went to Milwaukee because he was picked No. 1 in 1969. LeBron James went to Cleveland the same way 34 years later. Magic Johnson: No. 1 in 1979. Michael Jordan: No. 3 (behind Sam Bowie!) in 1984.

A draft pick might seem like nothing. It isn’t nothing. For the rebuilding Hawks, the draft is the only way up. If Crawford can bring another Round 1 pick, all the better.

Reader Comments 0

17 comments
David McCallum
David McCallum

I don't want to see the Hawks rebuild but let's be honest, the Hawks could not continue down this road of mediocrity. The Hawks are not like other major cities in that they cannot attract A-list free agents. The Hawks have to get lucky with one of their several draft picks in the coming years. I know it's painful but what other choice they have?

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tyger
tyger

Things can turn quickly...


No need for empty arena...


5 - #1 picks over next 2 years...

Expect another for Crawford...future high #2

Albeit low picks, some marginal 2 picks...

Nevertheless - assets that can be leveraged...


Apparently, picks more valued than players...

Sign a core - Shroder, THJ, Prince, Collins....

Compound future picks for lottery pick...

And you're back in the game...


ATL fickle town, 3 yr. plan too long...

We'll be looking at new ownership by then...

Like an NBA reality show..."Flipping Teams"


Who in their right mind is getting a haircut in the Phipp????

Richard Hayden
Richard Hayden

Isn't it just marvelous to have seen the parade of genius Hawks management over the past 49 years? Oh, the ownership has been a blast, too! Why should we change now?

David McCallum
David McCallum

@Richard Hayden I don't care about the past 49 years. I care about what this organization can do going forward. Let's not act like this is an a-list organization. If you were really honest with yourself, you know that the Hawks will never get the Durant types.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Like the dogs in the SEC! SEC!, the Least cannot beat the West. 

moboman
moboman

Agreed.  Its the only way to get out of mediocrity -- plan to be good when Lebron is too old to dominate.

David McCallum
David McCallum

@moboman Actually, it's not about Lebron. I know everyone likes to attach themsleves to that narrative, but to me, an organization should focus on themselves. 

Elbowdrop
Elbowdrop

How many draft picks nowadays are able to immediately help clubs? The rhetorical answer is few and far between Maybe 10-15 years ago when college players allowed their game to develop and stayed st least 2 years. These one and doners are d-league bound and may or may not be a contributing piece for the team that drafted them in 2-3 years. Build through the draft huh, good luck.

pride
pride

The ads instead of comments is getting tiresome.

tyger
tyger

At least you pay homage to best Hawks GM: Billy Knight