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Schlenk: Hawks’ ‘free agency is going to be trades’

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk sat down with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution while at the Las Vegas Summer League this week. He spoke on a number of issues, including the struggles of No. 5 overall pick Trae Young and the team’s plans (or lack thereof) to build the roster in free agency ahead of the coming season.

Q. What was the concern level with Trae Young got off to a slow start?

A. There was no concern level when he got off to a bad start. I said the other day, he missed his first shot and everyone said, ‘Oh, he’s a bust.’ We are not going to know who Trae Young is in the NBA for another two or three years. All these guys, it’s all about the work they put in from now until two or three years down the road.

Q. For a young guy like that off to a slow start, do you have a conversation with him because he is probably putting pressure on himself?

A. The one thing we’ve been consistent with him is just trying to keep his spirits up. He is a confident kid. He is a mentally tough kid. What he dealt with last year at Oklahoma mentally prepared him for the spotlight. He went from, I don’t want to say unheralded, but he went from guy wasn’t on any mock draft, no one was talking about him. He was a McDonald’s All-American, all that stuff, but it wasn’t like he was the face of college basketball. Obviously, Oklahoma’s season got off to a great start and all of a sudden hit a lull and he took a lot of pressure for that. I think he’s prepared for that.

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Q. Are there a couple of things that stand out to you about the guys who are here and what you are seeing?

A. We wish Kevin (Huerter) could have played. We haven’t had a lot of success on the court, but our team is really young. We don’t have a lot of veteran guys. The only guys with NBA experience on our roster with Tyler (Dorsey) and John (Collins). The rest of the guys are right out of college. Antonius (Cleveland) and Jaylen (Morris) played a little bit for us last year. Not having John and Tyler out there makes us really young. We have struggled to shoot the ball.

Q. But this summer league was about seeing the core guys play wasn’t it?

A. It’s about giving those guys minutes and opportunities. Not just to play with each other but to get used to our new coaching staff. That’s why I thought it was important for (new head coach) Lloyd (Pierce) to get out there and coach the first few games in Utah so those guys can get used to him and coaching the practices we had back in Atlanta before we left. We had most of the guys on the roster out here in Vegas working out. We had a big dinner the other night. It’s been good to get everyone introduced.

Q. What are your initial thoughts about Omari Spellman now that he has played some?

A. He ended up in Utah, third in rebounding, fourth in steals and blocks. Just like everyone on our roster, he is not shooting it as well as he would like, but he is doing other things out there. Great kid. Great spirit. We are excited about him.

Q. What about Alpha Kaba, the second-round pick from last year?

A. You can tell, me looking at him, he’s found the weight room over in France. He got hurt this past year, hurt his knee, and wasn’t able to play as much as we would have liked. Great length. Still learning the game. Playing on a better team now in France, Tony Parker’s team. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get a full year in over there.

Q. You said you weren’t going to act fast in free agency and you haven’t. Are you still playing the waiting game?

A. Right now, we have the 14 guys under contract. Jaylen and Antonius are non-guarantees, so we could get down to 12 pretty quickly if we needed to. We’ll probably look to carry 14 guys just so we have some flexibility with our space to take on contracts if we need to be. The majority for free agency for us is just going to be taking on contracts to gather assets if we get a player we like.

Q. What is next after summer league in the roster-building process?

A. We are going through the trade process right now. Seeing what trades might be out there. That’s the process right now, seeing what options might be out there. Not really an antenna for free agency. Our free agency is going to be trades.

Q. Is there a position you see of need? A guard? A wing?

A. Right now, when you look at our depth chart, we are pretty good on the wing. We only have the two point guards in Dennis (Schroder) and Trae. We have five bigs, but a lot of our bigs can play both positions. John is playing a lot more 4 this year. Last year he was kind of a 5, so we feel he can play both spots. Omari versus some matchups can play both spots with his shooting. (Dewayne) Dedmon and (Mike) Muscala. We feel pretty good about the versatility of our five bigs. 

Q. Do you see between Morris and Cleveland either one over the other making the roster?

A. No. We are evaluating the roster. Right now, we are at 14, and we want to stay at 14. We’ll sit down after the summer league and see where we are with both those guys.

Q. With the two point guards, where do you stand with Schroder? He was on the record about wanting a trade to specific teams.

A. I spoke to Dennis when he got back from Germany. A lot of that stuff was taken out of context. They took bits and pieces of questions that were asked of him and turned them in. Some translation stuff. Dennis has been back in Atlanta the month of June working out and getting to know the new coaches. He’s in a good place.

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