The Hawks have been stuck in mediocre purgatory for a decade. Whether it be Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague, or Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard at the helm, The Hawks have found a way to make the playoffs and promptly disappoint their fan base every year since 2008. At some point someone has to be bold enough to blow it all up and start over again. Enter Travis Schlenk.
Schlenk served 12 years on the Warriors staff, the last five as the assistant GM. He was there for the “we believe” Warriors who upset the #1 seeded Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. He was also in Golden State when they decided to scrap their team and start from scratch, which included trading away fan favorite Monte Ellis. This led to a few rough years where the Warriors sometimes barely made it to 30 wins and sometimes they didn’t. What this led to, however, was multiple lottery picks that turned into back to back and unanimous MVP Steph Curry, 3-point machine Klay Thompson, a championship, and a 73 win, record breaking, earth shattering season. In fact this new Warriors team was so good that the best scorer in the NBA, Kevin Durant, decided to join this team that was, just a few short years ago, one of the worst in basketball. Durant would have never landed on Golden State if they didn’t have Steph and Klay on their roster, and those two wouldn’t be on the Warriors if Schlenk and the rest of the decision makers hadn’t taken the very unpopular path of rebuilding.
The worst place to be in the NBA is just good. Travis Schlenk knows this better than anyone, and he has first hand experience in how to change good to great. But before a team can be great, they must first be very, very bad. The Warriors had to do it, the Cavs did it, drafting LeBron and Kyrie in the process, and every team that is now contending has done it. The problem with the Hawks is that no one has been willing to be bad until now. There was an uproar when Dwight Howard was traded and Paul Millsap signed with the Nuggets but they both had to go. Fans are already calling for Schlenk’s head, and their anger is understandable. It is nice to make the playoffs every year, it’s comfortable and safe. However, if they want a championship, they can’t be comfortable. The simple truth of the NBA is this: the only way to win championships is to be terrible for at least a few years. The Hawks were nowhere close to even competing for a championship in the last decade, and they would only have gotten farther from that goal by signing 33 year old Paul Millsap to a max contract.
It is sad to see Paul go. He is arguably the best Hawk since Dominique Wilkins, and the city embraced him as the star that he is. Like this cities fans he had a chip on his shoulder, a toughness that he played with every game. Unfortunately, in a league of superstars and super teams, the ability to win a championship with Paul Millsap as your best player is near impossible. Building through the draft and looking to the future is the only way to compete, even if it means a few rough years. To those Hawks fans who believe they know better than our new GM who helped create the greatest team in NBA history, in the words of Aaron Rodgers; “R-E-L-A-X.”
Featured Image: Theringer.com