Travis Schlenk likes Hawks’ options after aggressive offseason moves

With the most salary-cap space in the NBA (north of $44 million), it was no secret the Hawks planned to be aggressive in free agency.

They added Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari (officially announced as a sign-and-trade with the Thunder), Kris Dunn, Rajon Rondo and Solomon Hill, acquired Tony Snell via a trade with the Pistons and added No. 6 pick Onyeka Okongwu via the draft. Eight players return from last season’s team, five of whom got major playing time (Trae Young: 35.3 minutes per game, John Collins: 33.2 mpg, De’Andre Hunter: 32 mpg, Kevin Huerter: 31.4 mpg, Cam Reddish: 26.7 mpg) and one who projects to get that in the coming season (Clint Capela, set to be the team’s go-to center after an injury prevented him from making his debut last season).

The 17 players on the Hawks roster right now (which includes two two-way players, Skylar Mays and Nathan Knight), are the players the Hawks plan to take to training camp, which starts the first week of December. So no more roster moves are expected in the immediate future, per Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who addressed the media Wednesday.

Schlenk is comfortable with the team he’s assembled, but held off on giving himself a grade just yet.

“I guess if I would, it’d be ‘incomplete,’ because we have no idea if it’s going to work yet, right?” Schlenk said.

On paper, the Hawks added way more shooting, a little more defense and an abundant amount of depth (adding depth was the main goal from the beginning). As a result, they may have finally fixed their second-unit struggles, with last year’s offense stalling if Young wasn’t there to run it (11.8 fewer points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass). It wasn’t just the absence of Young and a lack of a backup point guard, though — the Hawks’ bench simply wasn’t deep enough, and was further hurt by injuries and Collins’ suspension.

There may be fit issues here and there, but if the roster stays as it is, one thing Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce can count on is having options at every position and plenty of flexibility when choosing lineups. With the addition of players such as Rondo, Dunn and Snell, combined with a guy like Huerter who may also end up coming off the bench, the Hawks should be able to more effectively stay in games even without starters or go-to-guys on the court.

“It’s got to be a good feeling for him, right? Because any one night, one of these guys might have it going,” Schlenk said of Pierce choosing a potential closing lineup, pointing out Gallinari’s proficiency as a shooter, Bogdanovic’s ability to create for himself as others, Rondo’s big playoff performances and Young and Collins’ offensive talents, too. “It’s going to give him a lot of different options, and depending on who’s doing what that game, you’re going to see different lineups throughout the season. And that’s what we really hope, that this group comes together as a collective team, and it’s not about individual success, it’s about group success, and that’s what’s going to drive and really power this team.”

With all that depth, it’s inevitable some guys aren’t getting to play as much as they may want. Obviously, Young’s minutes are safe, and Capela figures to shoulder most of the burden at center, though Collins may still play some small-ball 5.

Schlenk mentioned before the draft that if the Hawks got deeper as a team, their No. 6 pick (which turned out the be Okongwu) would have to earn his playing time more than guys have had to the past few years, and it would be the same for other players on the roster.

He still sees that as a strength, and thinks it will overall raise the level of the team.

“Everybody’s going to have an opportunity,” Schlenk said Wednesday. “What we want it to be is very competitive for guys to get those opportunities. … We’re now in a position where you’re going to have to earn those minutes, they’re not just going to be given to you like they have been in the past. We think that’s a positive, and certainly the hope is it’s going to bring the best out of everybody and raise everyone’s level.”

Schlenk also pointed out that depth is even more important given the coronavirus pandemic, as players may have to miss time because of illness at some point.

Overall, the quality and quantity of talent the Hawks now have on the roster will lead to a stronger second-unit, Schlenk thinks. We’ll see how everything meshes, but on paper, it seems he’s correct.

“When you just look at who some of those players might be, Rajon coming on and leading that second unit is a huge upgrade from what we had last year, just in and of itself,” Schlenk said. “If Gallo’s out there, Kevin’s out there, Cam or De’Andre or Tony or Solomon, it’s just a much better group at least on paper than what we had last year.”

Although the roster is settled for now, per Schlenk, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever.

The Hawks still have to make a decision on whether to extend Collins (the deadline is Dec. 21). He has one year left on his contract and may be a valuable trade piece, but is also 23, a 20-and-10 guy and a major cornerstone of the rebuild, and he showed improvement on defense last season. And though Schlenk is comfortable with the group he’s assembled, he also mentioned Wednesday that by combining young talent with veteran pieces, the Hawks may be in position to acquire a star at some point.

“As the season goes on, we’ll see,” Schlenk said. “One of the things I really like about where we are is with the veteran guys, with the young guys we have, we have a lot of guys on our roster that other teams value. So we always try to keep ourselves in a position, if there is a star player that becomes available, we’re in a position to try to go acquire those, and we’re in a nice situation there because we do have a lot of talent that people value, and now we have good veterans that we could use to match salaries.

“So we’re going to continue to look to be aggressive as we build this team out. But we’re certainly not looking to do that, but those opportunities come forward, we’re going to try to be aggressive there. But we’re real comfortable with the group of guys we have, and we’re excited to see this group start the season here, next week.”