Bradley’s Buzz: We don’t know Hawks’ plan, but they’d better have one

The NBA has finally gotten around to staging its finals, leaving the local club well and truly on the clock. The draft is June 26 – and June 27, the hoops league having gone all NFL on us. The Hawks hold the first pick. The Hawks also hold the two players most apt to be traded.

NBA free agency, usually the best part of every NBA year, commences June 30. LeBron James could again be available. As of June 30, he’ll be six months shy of his 40th birthday. As big a deal as he is, the bigger issue is where his 19-year-old son will land. Neither ESPN nor lists Bronny James among its top 50 prospects.

This is considered a weak draft. This crop of free agents – even if LeBron and Paul George enter the market – will be tepid. (The top FA stands to be Tyrese Maxey, the newly crowned most improved player.) Except for the Hawks, not many clubs figure to remake themselves over the next month. If the Hawks don’t remake themselves, they’ll have whiffed egregiously.

How long since the Hawks whiffed egregiously? Six years. That’s when they chose Luka Doncic and their first words to him were, “That cap you just put on? We need that back.”

Former Hawks GM Rick Sund often griped that the NBA has it backward. The draft should come after free agency, not before it. “That’s how the NFL does it,” he’d say. “That way you know where your holes are.” By now, these Hawks should know where their holes are. Then again, they’re the Hawks.

On May 12, they won a lottery they entered with a 97% chance of not winning. We assume the next week was devoted to team employees pinching themselves and saying, “Did that really happen? No way that happened.” Once the shock/denial/disbelief faded, the Hawks surely set about charting a bold new course. We say “surely” because we’re guessing.

We’ve heard scarcely a peep as to what the Hawks are thinking, which is fine. No need to tip one’s hand, as they say. The mock drafts – which often deal in peeps, real or imagined – might offer a sign. On May 12, Alex Sarr was projected as the No. 1 pick. Zaccharie Risacher has since moved above Sarr. (Both are from France. Sarr is the taller of the two.)

That the mocks have shifted from one big man to another suggests early whispers hold that the Hawks aren’t trading Trae Young. Because, if the Hawks were believed to be peddling their point guard, they could use the No. 1 pick – the consolation of holding first choice in a weak draft is that there’s no wrong answer – to tap his replacement.

Both ESPN and have PG Reed Sheppard going No. 3 – to Houston. But watch this space.

The Hawks could stay at No. 1 and take the Best Player Available, even if there’s no consensus BPA. They could trade down and use this windfall No. 1 to take a slightly lesser talent on need and buy back draft capital forfeited in landing Dejounte Murray. They could keep Young and Murray, who’s not quite a point guard, and simply add Risacher/Sarr to the mix.

Trouble is, it’s a lousy mix. Young and Murray have worked together, which isn’t the same as working well, for two seasons, over which the Hawks were 77-87. GM Landry Fields seemed to concede the point when he told reporters in February, “The sample size is getting larger and larger and larger. … The numbers speak to themselves on that.”

Numbers showed the Hawks were more efficient when either Young or Murray was on the bench – and when Bogdan Bogdanovic wasn’t – then when the All-Star guards were paired. Those guards are due to make $68 million next season and $73M the year after that, which would be OK if they were winning titles like Steph and Klay in their prime. But they aren’t, and they won’t.

There’s a chance the draft’s two nights could come and go without the Hawks informing the world of their grand design. But there must be a plan, and it must involve trading Young or Murray. There’s no sense adding another young talent to a roster that doesn’t lack talent. If this summer’s only major move is a draft pick, the Hawks will have failed.

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