Lucas Nogueira was their first pick. He’s a center from Brazil who also holds Spanish citizenship and has hair roots possibly originating from Neptune.
Dennis Schroeder was their second pick. He’s a point guard from Germany who last played for the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig.
So let’s start with this: Anybody beyond an NBA general manager or scout who says they really love these picks or hate these picks or, “My God! I can’t believe Nogueira and Schroeder fell to us!” can’t be believed – and even the general managers and coaches are just guessing (though at least with the benefit of more film study and air miles than the rest of us).
But if nothing else, we can make a judgment about the Hawks’ approach to the draft Thursday night. They seemed to get it right.
Danny Ferry’s team lacked size last season, and so the first pick was spent a 7-footer, Nogueira. He wasn’t the most impressive looking specimen as he walked to the stage in New York – maybe a Twinkie over 225 pounds and wild hair stuffed under his Boston Celtics’ hat (we’ll get to that in a minute). But he’s athletic and can run the floor (reportedly) and obviously has room to bulk up.
The team’s future at point guard is uncertain (as is almost everything else about this team). Jeff Teague is a restricted free agent, and Ferry has not publicly committed to keeping him. So he took Schroeder, a player he loves and who some have likened to Boston’s Rajon Rondo (lofty praise).
“There are a lot of decisions that still have to be made — working with players, working with agents, the dynamics of free agency as well,” Ferry said sometime after midnight following the draft, during which he made three trades. “But I do think both of the guys we drafted in the first round can be solid parts of our future. Two very important positions: A center, a guy who can protect the rim and finish around the basket, and a point guard, the competitiveness he brings. Again, if we develop them and give them the opportunity, I’m confident they can be successful.”
The question: When? It’s possible both will be uniform next season. It’s also possible neither will be.
This wasn’t a draft with many NBA-ready players. So there’s no reason to think the Nos. 16 and 17 players taken will be in Hawks’ uniforms next season.
“We’re not going to put a line in the sand either way at this point,” Ferry said.
The roster, with currently only three players under contract, will be built largely through free agency and trades. There are decisions to be made on Teague and impending free agent Josh Smith. It’s believed Ferry already has been having trade discussions with other teams for players. Conceivably, this draft will have zero impact on next year’s team.
It was a strange night. So many draft picks, like Nogueira, walked up to the stage in New York wearing the wrong team’s hat. This is the bizarre — and let’s just say it: stupid — world of the NBA draft. Draft trades aren’t immediately approved, so general managers can’t talk about picks right away and teams draft for other teams. The Hawks’ pick for Nogueira (16th overall) was acquired in a trade from Dallas, which had acquired it from Boston earlier in the round. Consequently, we had this scene of Nogueira walking to the stage in a Celtics hat, even though the Celtics owned the pick two trades ago.
There also was a possibility that the Hawks would be making more trades. Confused? Join the club.
The hope in this corner is that no matter how the Hawks come out of this, it will be with some size that they’ve sorely lacked. This was a Munchkin team last season that shrank even more when Zaza Pachulia’s season was ended by a partially torn Achilles.
Al Horford is the Hawks’ center. He has the scars to prove it. He has lobbied so hard for the front office to add some size and bulk to the roster, he probably would settle for a water buffalo and a yak.
Need affirmation? Try this: ESPN the Magazine conducted a mock draft, asking current NBA players to choose for their team. Horford selected for the Hawks. His picks: Louisville center Gorgui Dieng at 17 and Pittsburgh center Steven Adams at 18. One is 6-11, 230, the other is 7-0, 255.
Neither ended up a Hawk. Adams went 12th to Oklahoma City. Dieng was left on the board both times Atlanta/Boston/Dallas picked (16th and 17th … or maybe it was 18th).
Strange night. The first overall pick was UNLV forward Anthony Bennett from Brampton, Ontario. (Yet another prospect who got away from the Maple Leafs.) The expected first pick, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, lasted until No. 6, to New Orleans.
Ferry tried to swing a trade with Dallas, up 13th overall, possibly to take Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk. But the Mavericks ended up making a deal with the Celtics, who took Olynyk.
Ferry set up his draft “war room” in the former Thrashers locker room at Philips Arena. No word if this decision was preceded by an exorcism and some burning incense. The hope is that he at least sat at the opposite end of the room from where the goalies used to dress.
Hawks fans generally associate drafts with misery. It’s no wonder. We can debate what constitutes the bottom in franchise draft history, but selecting Marvin Williams second overall in 2005 and Shelden Williams fifth in 2006 is a pretty good start to the discussion.
That said, there has been improvement. First-rounder picks in the past five drafts (six years) have yielded two starters (Horford and Teague) and guard John Jenkins. (OK, so they also took Acie Law.)
This is only the beginning of Ferry’s massive building project. This draft may end up serving only a minor role in this team’s future. But the GM seemed to get it right.
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