The Atlanta Hawks have three picks in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft – No. 3, No. 19 and No. 30 – and they can reshape the identity of the team with smart selections.
Point guard Trae Young, who has drawn comparisons to Steph Curry, could be an option for Atlanta with the third overall pick.
The similarities are strong enough that Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal called the Oklahoma freshman “Baby Steph” back in January 2018.
Many people have mentioned Curry when describing Young since he just had one of the most impressive shooting seasons in the history of college basketball. He and Curry have become close, too, and Young even attended multiple playoff games to watch the Golden State Warriors star.
Jeremy Woo reported that the Hawks covet the sharpshooter (via Sports Illustrated):
“Atlanta could also look to flip 19 and 30 or 34 for a better selection. There’s also a sense they might consider offers to move down from No. 3, and are known to have interest in Trae Young in that scenario.”
His marketability, name-recognition and overall potential could make him a good fit for the franchise. He averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists, which both led the NCAA. Young also hit 3.7 three-pointers per game, and his offensive box plus-minus was also the best among all college players.
When asked about who the Hawks should draft, Atlanta-based hip-hop star Quavo said Young would help the culture of the city. He later doubled down on this, saying Young could be Atlanta’s own “Splash Bro.”
Young, however, is not the only player who is getting compared to one of the reigning champions. Kevin Huerter, who opted to stay in the draft after just one season at Maryland, is often mentioned in the same breath as Golden State’s 3-and-D star Klay Thompson.
Huerter averaged 14.8 points and made 2.3 three-pointers per game last year, and he had the second-best effective field goal percentage in his conference last season. Huerter also looked very sharp in the combine scrimmages.
Sam Vecenie projected Huerter would be selected by the Hawks in his latest mock draft (via The Athletic):
“There has been speculation that he received a promise somewhere in that range, with multiple teams being rumored to have done it … Heurter had a strong workout with the Hawks, and general manager Travis Schlenk — who comes from Golden State — possibly sees the outline of a Klay Thompson clone in Huerter.”
As mentioned by Vecenie, many around the league believe that Huerter has received a “promise” by one of the teams with a pick in the first round. In a recent report from Woo, he suggested teams in the league believe the Utah Jazz are the most likely suitor.
However, it’s worth mentioning that ESPN’s Bill Riley says it’s not in Utah’s method of operations to offer a draft promise to a prospect. Regardless, the Hawks (No. 19) pick before the Jazz (No. 21) in Huerter’s range.
Young will work out with the Hawks on Tuesday and they’ll reportedly be one of four teams he will meet with before the draft. Huerter, as mentioned by Vecenie, had a draft work out with the franchise last month.
If there is a person ready to spot the next Curry and Thompson, it would be Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk. He was with the Warriors since 2004 before taking this role with the Hawks.
Schlenk is well-regarded as a talent evaluator and he was the director of player personnel when Golden State drafted Curry. He was also the assistant general manager when the Warriors selected Thompson.
Lloyd Pierce, now the head coach for Atlanta, was an assistant for Golden State during the 2010-11 season. He worked directly with Curry when the two-time MVP was in his second year in the league. He could be the perfect person to develop Young in the NBA.
The Hawks do have an enormous amount of money owed to point guard Dennis Schroeder, but Schlenk was not the executive that drafted him nor was he in charge of the regime when he was given a large contract extension. It would be hard to trade his cumbersome contract, but if the front office is indeed enamored with Young, it won’t be Schroeder that will get in the way.
Expect the team to do their due diligence, eyeing other potential targets like Jaren Jackson Jr. as well as Mo Bamba and perhaps even Luka Doncic. If they do like what they see from Young and Huerter, though, they’d become a team worth paying attention to as they develop.