Hawks GM Travis Schlenk’s philosophy on the NBA draft and free agency

June 24, 2019 Brookhaven- Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk speaks at the introductory press conference for Cam Reddish, a Hawks 2019 draft pick,  at the Hawks practice facility, in the Emory Sports Medicine Complex, in Brookhaven, Georgia on Monday June 24, 2019. Reddish was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2019 NBA Draft on  June 20, 2019, and was the 10th overall pick. Reddish previously played small forward/shooting guard for the Duke University Blue Devils. Christina Matacotta/CHRISTINA.MATACOTTA@AJC.COM

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June 24, 2019 Brookhaven- Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk speaks at the introductory press conference for Cam Reddish, a Hawks 2019 draft pick, at the Hawks practice facility, in the Emory Sports Medicine Complex, in Brookhaven, Georgia on Monday June 24, 2019. Reddish was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20, 2019, and was the 10th overall pick. Reddish previously played small forward/shooting guard for the Duke University Blue Devils. Christina Matacotta/CHRISTINA.MATACOTTA@AJC.COM

The NBA has been on hiatus since March 11 because of the coronavirus, and it's not clear if the Hawks will get to play their final 15 regular-season games or what the league's postseason could look like.

With all that up in the air, though, the team still has to prepare for the draft and free agency, even if the dates (the draft is scheduled for June 25, with free agency set to begin June 30) get pushed back.

After a disappointing, clipped season, marred by John Collins' 25-game suspension, injuries to Kevin Huerter and minimal contributions from now-departed veterans, the Hawks are looking to add depth in free agency and likely are committed to their first- and second-round picks in the draft, according to general manager Travis Schlenk.

At the time of the season's suspension, the Hawks had the fourth-worst record in the league at 20-47, ahead of Minnesota (19-45), Cleveland (19-46) and Golden State (15-50). Anything can happen, if the right offer comes along, but those conversations aren't happening yet, Schlenk said.

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“I think we’re committed to it,” Schlenk said. “Obviously our pick is going to be a top-10 pick, so obviously we’ll keep that, unless some great offer came our way, something we couldn’t turn down. But as of right now, those dialogues aren’t taking place. And then the (pick No.) 52, to be completely frank, the pick doesn’t have a lot of value, so even if we wanted to move it, we wouldn’t really get anything for it, so we’ll keep that, and we’ll do the best we can with it.”

A lot of the Hawks’ draft strategy will depend on how the lottery shakes out and where they end up picking (the 14 teams that don’t make the postseason are eligible for the lottery, which determines the order).

But according to Schlenk, they’ll look for the best player available and not focus as much on fit.

“We could be anywhere between 1 and 8,” Schlenk said. “Last year, we were going in at fifth and we end up at 8 because three teams jump in front of us, so a lot of that is just going to depend on where we end up picking. But we’re going to take who we feel like is the best player there. We’re not going to position it.

“When you start picking that high in the draft, I think it’s a mistake to draft on need, unless the talent is equal, but you look for the best talent when you start drafting that high.”

Regarding free agency, the Hawks’ front office is meeting via Zoom and going through different teams and players they have their eye on, assessing team and player options and doing their best to project and gauge the market.

They were projecting to have around $50 million in cap space. However, the situation is fluid because of financial losses related to the coronavirus, which could bring about a big drop in the league’s salary cap. The cap was $109,140,000 for the 2019-20 season, and it’s based on league-wide revenue from the previous season. The league hasn’t announced plans for the final portion of the regular season or the playoffs, so it’s difficult to model exactly how much revenue will be lost.

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Basically, teams could end up with less spending power than they originally anticipated.

But ultimately, coming off a season in which rookies Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter shouldered heavy responsibility throughout the season, in addition to 21-year-olds Trae Young and Huerter and 22-year-old Collins, the Hawks are looking to add players that are still coming into their own, but have a little more NBA experience.

They already did this, to some extent, by adding 25-year-old Clint Capela at the trade deadline. A nagging right heel injury has prevented Capela from making his Hawks debut, but once he heals, he figures to give the team a much-needed boost at center moving forward. Although the Hawks feel confident in their "Core Five" of Young, Huerter, Reddish, Hunter and Collins, they'd like to add more depth if they feel it's a good fit, regardless of position.

Hawks draft picks

“We were projecting that to be around ($50 million). It could be around that much, it could be substantially less, depending on what happens with the rest of the season and playoffs,” Schlenk said. “But at the end of the day, we’ll have the most space. What we’d like to do, ideally, is add guys to our core that we feel like are still growing, maybe not 20-year-olds, 21-year-olds like we have, but maybe guys in their mid-20s who still have room to improve and are maybe coming off their first contract, or that we feel like would be good additions to our group, and try to increase our depth a little bit.”

Don’t be surprised if the Hawks show a little more aggression in free agency than they have in years past.

“If there’s 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, the ones that look the best on paper.

“I think it’s conceivable that we might make some offers before we have in the past, whether or not teams or I should say agents or players want to jump at the offers we make right away, or see if there’s something better out there, might prevent us more from signing someone right away, but I do anticipate us being a little more assertive in free agency. … It’s all going to come down to the cap.”