Story by KL Chouinard
The Atlanta Hawks began their 2017-18 campaign Tuesday when they opened training camp at the University of Georgia. In advance of his first full season as General Manager, Travis Schlenk met with the media Friday to share his vision of the team.
In his opening statement, Schlenk made his two offseason roster objectives undeniably clear: youth and roster flexibility.
“Last season we were the fifth-oldest team in the league, and we wanted to get younger, and obviously we feel like we accomplished that,” Schlenk said. “The second thing we wanted to accomplish was financial flexibility moving forward as it relates to the cap, and we feel like we were able to do that as well. The reason why flexibility is so important to us it allows us to go out and make deals like we did with the Jamal Crawford trade (that netted the Hawks a first-round pick from Houston) where we can get assets as we invest in the future of this franchise.”
So the youth movement has already begun, even though it may not yet be complete.
Over the summer, the Hawks added a number of young players to a roster that already featured Dennis Schröder, Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry. In addition to drafting rookies John Collins and Tyler Dorsey, the Hawks also added second-year players Quinn Cook and Nicolas Brussino. All seven players are 24 years old or younger.
“Now that we have a young core,” Schlenk added, “we have nine draft picks in the next (three) years, so there’s a high probability that we are going to be even a little bit younger next year.”
Youth can yield athleticism and potential, but it also brings inexperience to the table. As Schlenk laid out his plan, he returned a number of times to the topic of growth. He wants the team to be better in April’s Game 82 than they are in October’s Game 1.
“We are going to be young and, historically, teams who are young take it on the chin a little bit,” he said. “What we are looking for is to see that growth not only from individual players but as a collective unit from the start of the season to the end.”
Despite the pitfalls, the Hawks’ GM remained confident and for good reason: Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff have a history of player development that is flush with success stories.
“We’re fortunate to have a coaching staff that has a proven track record of being able to develop young players,” Schlenk said, “so any time that we can get our hands on a young guy who we think can get better, we’re going to look to do that.”
Even if renting a car would be an age-based problem for half of the Hawks’ roster, Schlenk wasn’t ready to concede losses to inexperience. He still expects his team to exhibit the same dedication to basketball fundamentals that all of Budenholzer’s teams have shown.
“We’re going to play hard,” he said. “We’re going to play together. We’re going to play the right way – and we’re going to be able to live with the results.”