Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young reacts to hitting the game winning shot as time expires in overtime to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 136-135 in a NBA basketball game on Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/
Photo: Compton
Photo: Compton

Hawks’ pitch to free agents: Trae Young will get you the ball

You want the ball?

Trae Young will get you the ball.

Travis Schlenk won’t be that simple with his pitch to free agents – this year and in the future – but the Hawks general manager certainly could be.

“When you look at star players around the league, most of them are scorers and they want the ball,” Schlenk said. “When you have a point guard who can make plays … look at our big guys this year Dewayne (Dedmon), Alex (Len), John (Collins), they all had career years. They worked hard and got better but a lot of that is Trae getting them wide open shots at the lane, getting them wide open shots on the perimeter.”

While the NBA is in the middle of the playoffs, the Hawks are already looking at the offseason. They have begun pre-draft workouts and have the lottery and draft upcoming. All that will be followed by free agency.

Young just completed his rookie season and will be a major factor in the Hawks’ continued rebuild as part of a core of young players. He was fourth in the NBA, among all players, in assists per game last season at 8.1. He trailed only Russell Westbrook (10.7), Kyle Lowry (8.7) and Chris Paul (8.2).

“For us, it’s cumulative, everything we’ve got going positive right now,” Schlenk said of his pitch to free agents. “I think in the city there is a buzz about the Hawks right now just by the way we ended (the season). Obviously, we have the beautiful new arena, beautiful new practice facility, obviously we know the G League team is coming to College Park. There is a buzz around the league about our young core. 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.’”

The Hawks have a young core around Young of Taurean Prince, Collins, Kevin Huerter and up to five draft picks next month.

As he said and did last season, Schlenk won’t be an immediate player on the free agent market in July even with the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler set to hit the open market after the season.

Schlenk believes he can currently get a meeting with top-tier free agents for one important reason even with the Hawks coming off a 29-win season. Money.

“We are in position to have those meetings because we have the (salary) cap space,” Schlenk said. “We are one of the few teams who can walk into a room and say here is $40 million. That gets you in the door. Then you have to show them you have the future flexibility to go out there and get another player with them. You have the young players currently on your roster who project to be superstar players. We feel like we are in a good spot and the future lined up to stay in that spot.”

Schlenk said he will know more about the team’s direction in free agency after the NBA draft on June 20. The Hawks potentially five draft picks to add to a roster with nine players with guaranteed contracts next season. Vince Carter and Dedmon are Hawks players headed to free agency who could be re-signed.

Depending on the outcome of the draft, where the Hawks could have two top-10 picks, Schlenk will know what holes there are on the roster.

“My guess is we are not going to be the first one out of the gate in free agency this year,” Schlenk said. “We’ll kinda wait and see who falls through the cracks and we can get a good young player or a good veteran player that is going to work in our locker room and fit the needs that we need.”

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