Bradley’s Buzz: Winning lottery hands Hawks a way to trade Trae Young

Just the Hawks’ luck, right? They flout oppressive odds to win the lottery. They reap a windfall even they never saw coming — GM Landry Fields: “I was shocked” — except there’s no wind. There’s barely a breeze.

Depending on the source, this is either the worst draft class in years or the worst of any year ever. It’s the NBA equivalent of having first pick when the prize for picking first is Aundray Bruce. The franchise that has never found a draft it can’t mess up gets handed the No. 1 choice in a year where there’s no Wemby, no Zion, no LeBron.

Only the Hawks, right?

But here’s where this observer — the same observer who, back in the day, deemed Bruce a great get for the local NFL club — taps the microphone and says, “Is this thing on?” And then, having been assured it is, says ...

The going-nowhere Hawks have been handed a chance to go somewhere really good really fast.

This doesn’t mean they can’t pull a Marvin/Shelden Williams on us. This doesn’t mean they can’t take Luka Doncic and re-gift him to someone else. When it’s draft time, you can never — OK, almost never; Al Horford panned out — go broke betting against this crew. But if you’re talking luck, let’s talk REAL luck.

The Hawks made the lottery only because they lost to sub-.500 Chicago in the play-in tournament. They held a 65.9% chance of picking 10th, which in a down draft would have been akin to picking 30th. They stumbled into Pick No. 1 — odds of that were 3% — and get to call the tune. More to the point, they get to write a new song.

Since reaching the 2021 Eastern Conference finals, the Hawks have gone 43-39, 41-41 and 36-46. They have good players but have managed to avoid becoming a good team. It’s clear some of those players don’t fit. They can now move some of those misfits — and their contracts — and replace talent lost with commensurate talent gained.

This will require deft management, and it’s unclear if this organization is capable of such. Here, though, is a moment to seize, and it’s a moment that didn’t figure to arrive anytime soon. Owing to the Dejounte Murray deal, this is the only draft in the next four where the Hawks controlled their Round 1 pick. This Round 1 pick is now the No. 1 pick.

Really, though, it’s more than that. It’s the lever that can move this franchise off mediocrity. The Hawks could trade this pick, though I wouldn’t. I’d trade Trae Young and use the pick to secure a replacement. Maybe it’s Rob Dillingham, a guard from Kentucky. Maybe it’s Reed Sheppard, another guard from Kentucky and the son of Jeff Sheppard, briefly a Hawk.

And now you’re saying: Aren’t Alex Sarr, a big man from France, and Zaccharie Risacher, a slightly less big man from France, rated 1-2, or 2-1? Didn’t Donovan Clingan, a very big man from UConn, look Jokic-like in the Big Dance? The answers are yes and yes, but that’s the hidden blessing of the Class of ‘24. With no Wemby/Zion/LeBron, there might be no wrong choice. You can pick the player who best fits your needs.

The Hawks need a guard who isn’t Trae Young. They should trade him for something — future draft slots would be most welcome — and use this draft to find Murray a new partner. Or they can take a big man — Clint Capela also needs a new home — and bump Bogdan Bogdanovic back to the first five. Before Sunday, the Hawks mostly faced bad choices. Now they have real options.

Before Sunday, the Hawks weren’t bad enough to tank or good enough to matter. Ping pong balls have delivered a freedom to remake themselves. There’s no sense adding the No. 1 draftee to a team built around Young. Building around Young is how the Hawks got where they are. Now they can add a significant new talent who’d make for a better mesh.

Before Sunday, the Hawks were stuck. Providence just smiled on them and said, “Here’s your reset.”

Then, smiling no longer, Providence said: “Don’t blow it.”

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