Draft night just another piece of the puzzle for Hawks

Credit: AP file photo/John Bazemore

Credit: AP file photo/John Bazemore

Of the five starters in Game 6 of the Hawks-Celtics playoff series in April, none were actually drafted by the franchise during the past five years.

None? That’s correct, zero.

But before you think the Hawks haven’t done well on draft night since 2018, consider this – two of those starters were acquired in draft-night trades, and another was selected in the 2017 draft.

The Hawks currently have the No. 15 pick (and No. 46 overall in the second round) in Thursday’s NBA draft, and hope to select two players who can provide either immediate help or future help.

Or maybe no help at all.

John Collins, who scored 16 points in the 128-120 loss to the Celtics, was the 19th pick in 2017 and currently is the longest-tenured player on the team. Trae Young, who had 30 points and 10 assists against the Celtics, was acquired in a draft-night trade with Dallas in 2018.

The next year, De’Andre Hunter donned a Lakers cap when posing on draft night with commissioner Adam Silver, but also was acquired in a trade later that night and capped his fourth season in Atlanta with 20 points and six rebounds in the Boston loss.

So, what does all of this mean? There’s no exact science in building an NBA roster and teams are constantly looking for better fits – even on draft night.

Here’s a look back at the Hawks’ past five drafts (since 2018), the players selected and where some of them are now:

2018: Young and Luka Doncic will be linked forever – fairly or unfairly – because of the draft-night trade five years ago. Young has led the team in scoring in four of his five seasons, but he also has been linked – fairly or unfairly – as the reason why the team is on its third coach during his tenure.

The Hawks had two other first-round picks that year, and neither are with the franchise still. Omari Spellman was selected 30th overall, spent one season in Atlanta and hasn’t played in the NBA since 2020.

Kevin Huerter was selected 19th overall and started 216 games in four seasons until he was traded before the 2022 season. Huerter will be remembered best for the 27 points he scored against the 76ers in Philadelphia in Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals.

2019: Jaxson Hayes was drafted No. 8 overall by the Hawks, but was part of a big trade that eventually delivered No. 4 overall pick Hunter to the Hawks. The Hawks also had the No. 10 pick (as part of the Young-Doncic trade) and selected Cam Reddish of Duke.

Remember Didi Louzada? Of course you remember the team’s second-round pick, or maybe not. He was part of the Hayes trade and has played a total of 12 NBA games.

Hunter has been a solid starter for the Hawks – when healthy – in each of his four seasons. Reddish was traded to the Knicks during his third season with the Hawks, and was included in a multi-player trade the next season that landed him in Portland.

2020: The virtual draft held during the pandemic saw the Hawks select Onyeka Okongwu No. 6 overall and Skylar Mays in the second round (No. 50). Okongwu has been a solid contributor in his three seasons, averaging career-best 9.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season.

Mays saw limited playing time in two seasons with the Hawks. He averaged 15.3 points in six starts in Portland last season.

2021: Jalen Johnson showed flashes of excellence last season after he was selected 20th overall the year before. Second-round pick Sharife Cooper played in 13 games during the 2021-22 season, his lone season with the team before he was waived.

2022: AJ Griffin was selected 16th overall and had a solid rookie season, averaging 8.9 points and two rebounds per game. He also became the first rookie since the 1993-94 season to have multiple game-winning shots in overtime.