ATLANTA — Travis Schlenk sat down within the comfortable chair in his spacious workplace, whereas to his left, on the opposite facet of the window going through the Atlanta Hawks‘ follow courtroom, one of many NBA‘s most fascinating groups ready for his or her Thursday evening season opener in opposition to the Dallas Mavericks.
The workforce on the opposite facet of that window had gone by its personal wanting glass final season when it morphed from a disappointing mix of kids and veterans to a playoff drive.
Schlenk’s tenure in Atlanta started as a rehaul round younger draft picks Trae Young and John Collins — each query marks early on — that has since morphed right into a workforce which may simply contend once more in a really crowded Japanese Convention.
The Hawks, who made the leap from the pandemic-shortened season that left them out of the rest of the 2020 season to final seasons’ Japanese Convention finals contenders, discover themselves out of the blue burdened with the most effective and most demanding of realities: actual expectations.
That truth comes after Schlenk moved on from then-head coach Lloyd Pierce final February, elevated Nate McMillan to the interim function — after which watched his workforce surge to fifth within the Japanese Convention after which tear by the playoffs earlier than dropping to the eventual champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, one step from the Finals.
On the eve of this season, an opportunity to point out that that run was no fluke, the Hawks GM sat down with CBS Sports activities to debate his workforce, how they bought right here, and what to anticipate going ahead.
This interview has been edited for readability and consciousness.
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CBS Sports activities: Congratulations on the success final yr, final season. Success is fascinating. Pat Riley talked about, “The illness of extra.” What is the line for you guys to construct on that success however to not have guys take it as a right — and to should dwell with some fairly totally different expectations coming into the season?
Travis Schlenk: Yeah, that is clearly one of many issues that will likely be a part of the expansion course of. Final yr, our purpose was to get into the playoffs and we have been in a position to do this, after which clearly have the success within the playoffs. And so now, it is for a bunch of younger guys to grasp that, as you mentioned, after we go play on a Tuesday evening in the midst of February, you are going to get the opposite workforce’s greatest effort, so you have to present up each evening, since you’re on the radar now. Groups aren’t going to miss you anymore.
It should be a brand new problem for our guys and that is one of many messages we’re preaching to them: You need to present up each single evening and provides your greatest effort. We’ve got a great group of fellows, it is not that they do not [understand] however to not fall into the entice of, “Oh, we’re higher than this workforce. We do not have to offer our greatest effort tonight.”
CBS Sports activities: Trae Younger. I believe it is honest to say he is a respectable famous person now. That comes with its personal challenges. How does he proceed to take no matter steps you guys need for him to be the participant that you just want?
Schlenk: Initially, one of many large positives about Trae is he at all times continues to work. He places in a variety of work in the course of the summertime. He needs that mantle to be: constant All-Star, within the higher echelons of the league. So he’ll proceed to work even as soon as he will get there, and he may be there now, such as you alluded to, however he’ll proceed to remain there and to maintain getting higher and that is … that is finally after we begin drafting gamers — these are the sorts of personalities you are on the lookout for. Guys with that starvation. You realize he is at all times had that chip on his shoulder since Day 1 and I do not suppose he’ll lose that.
CBS Sports activities: What’s his ceiling? Over the following three, 4, 5, six years — MVP?
Schlenk: I believe in the event you’d ask him, the very first thing he’ll say might be a championship earlier than the person awards, however I believe that is definitely what he’ll shoot for.
CBS Sports activities: There’s not a variety of endurance in our enterprise. There’s much less endurance in yours. And definitely early on, the Trae-Luka Doncic commerce drew a variety of scrutiny for you, and I am certain a variety of criticism for you. Did you’re feeling a way of reduction or a way of vindication with what you guys did final yr, and what it showcased Trae was as a component, as a linchpin on your plan if you got here in and took over this job?
Schlenk: Not likely. Hear. Each these guys are actually good gamers they usually’ve been actually good gamers since Day 1 once they stepped into the NBA. For us, it was being able to get a participant that we thought was going to be a very good participant and the opposite asset on high of it. One of many theories that we at all times had if you’re drafting within the high of the lottery, you recognize, high 10, it is not a precise science, so the extra swings you’ve gotten at that to get a famous person [the better]. You at all times hear the pundits say, “We knew this man was going to be nice.” Nobody ever actually is aware of.
Actually, Luka had an excellent pedigree and he is become an excellent participant and Trae had an excellent collegiate pedigree as effectively with what he was in a position to accomplish in his one yr at Oklahoma, so we have been assured in each guys. And getting any further draft asset, which we have been projecting to be at a top-10 choose, we did get …
CBS Sports activities: Which was Cam Reddish.
Schlenk: Yep … which we calculated as, you recognize, price it.
CBS Sports activities: Usually talking, in the event you’re doing a great job — you, personally, Travis Schlenk, and your employees evaluating — what’s the proper hit price for a normal supervisor within the NBA?
Schlenk: I’ve at all times mentioned that we need to be round 60 p.c. You realize, it is powerful. Return and have a look at — particularly if you begin including your second-round picks in there — it is not a precise science, and you recognize you are coping with 18-, 19-year-old youngsters and making an attempt to mission what they will be once they’re 23, 24 years previous. So it is laborious.
CBS Sports activities: I do know it is an imperfect science, however usually talking, in your expertise right here and at Golden State, what proportion of success is you simply occur to draft the appropriate man — he had the psychological, he was ok, he liked the sport — versus participant growth and what you are in a position to personally, as a company, carry or not carry out of a man?
Schlenk: They undoubtedly go hand in hand and I believe a variety of it’s the inside make-up, which is a large issue, but in addition the construction that you just give that particular person and the scenario they’re put in as effectively. And generally one particular person’s character would possibly work in a single scenario and possibly not a lot within the second scenario. When you’ve got a really internally-driven man, possibly going right into a scenario the place he would not get minutes proper off the bat, the place it is really going to assist his progress and he’ll attempt tougher to earn these minutes. Versus a man who’s dropped right into a scenario the place he is given 25 minutes an evening which may really damage their growth.
They go hand in hand — the scenario and character — however on the finish of the day, I’ve at all times discovered that an important factor is the particular person’s drive to achieve success or to be nice. You need to get to know the particular person to know, “What is the child’s endgame?” Was the child’s endgame to get into the NBA and for a few of these youngsters who bought to the NBA, they suppose they’re achieved. Different youngsters have that drive to be nice within the NBA and they will sometimes thrive in no matter scenario you set them in. However it’s actually making an attempt to get right down to what the child’s motivations have been, what they’re making an attempt to perform.
Generally it is simply getting the second contract. And as soon as they get the second contract that inside drive goes.
CBS Sports activities: So that you have been very instrumental within the Warriors constructing what they constructed as a part of their entrance workplace. You’re accountable for Atlanta constructing no matter it has and can construct. So you have had some expertise with the draft and with these kinds of issues. If you’re evaluating guys your self, and now that you’ve got a employees that does a variety of that for you, are you watching the way in which guys react in school video games? Are you speaking to folks they know? Are you tape?
Schlenk: It is all of it, proper? You realize we do a ton of background on all the fellows. Name again to highschool and junior excessive coaches, AAU coaches, highschool coaches, going to highschool, school practices. It truly is a deep dive into these guys making an attempt to determine what motivates them and what their endgame is.
CBS Sports activities: How does your method change by way of placing eyes on guys and your willingness to delegate. You are most likely not seeing as a lot, proper, on this job as you probably did in different jobs?
Schlenk: Yeah, so, we type of have a flowchart, if that is smart, proper? We’ve got the scouts which might be on the market and that is their complete job. They’re seeing the bottom stage school all the way in which as much as the most effective school, they usually filter names as much as the following group, and we simply maintain filtering down and I am going to sometimes go see the fellows who’re projected within the first spherical. After I was at Golden State and had extra time to be on the street, then I used to be seeing all people that we had in our first two-tier teams that bought filtered up — low first-round, second-round guys. So now my principal focus is simply on the first-round group of fellows.
CBS Sports activities: You simply agreed to an extension with Kevin Huerter. And in Phoenix, they decided and weren’t in a position to get a deal achieved with Deandre Ayton. In each circumstances, I believe you may make an argument that two organizations which have achieved a reasonably good job figuring out younger expertise needed to make some tough choices. You have bought extra proficient gamers in your roster and extra choices forward.
Schlenk: We have drafted what we expect is an efficient group of younger guys and we need to attempt to do every little thing we will to maintain that group collectively so long as we will. We have been in a position to signal John [Collins] this summer time — the primary man we drafted once I bought right here. Clearly, we have been in a position to get an extension on Trae fairly rapidly in free company. After which Kevin was the third man that we have drafted within the first spherical since I have been right here, so having the ability to maintain these three guys collectively after which subsequent summer time we’ll be sitting right here speaking about De’Andre Hunter.
Hopefully, we’ll be capable to maintain that group collectively and proceed to look at these guys develop as a bunch. However as you mentioned, on this league, we now have a wage cap and we must begin making choices on what we’ll do. It should be actually laborious to maintain that group of 5 guys all collectively as a result of they’re actually good younger gamers.
CBS Sports activities: If you’re good, you receives a commission.
Schlenk: (Laughs) Sure, you do.
CBS Sports activities: What are your expectations and/or hopes for a respectable ceiling over the course of this season from De’Andre Hunter?
Schlenk: We’re very excessive on De’Andre. I believe what we noticed, as you talked about from his rookie yr to his second yr, is simply being extra comfy on the market with the velocity of the sport and with the tempo of it. He is your typical play-both-ends, two-way participant within the NBA. What we began to see final yr is him increasing his offensive sport, having the ability to put the ball on the ground slightly bit extra, create extra for himself. I believe we’ll see one other step in that this yr after which the following evolution on that finish goes to have the ability to be a creator for different folks and be capable to put the ball on the ground and create for others. And we expect he has an actual means to get there. And, clearly, defensively he is extraordinarily versatile along with his power and talent to defend at size and play 4 positions — and the way in which that the league performs generally, possibly he’ll be capable to play all 5 positions when groups go small ball.
CBS Sports activities: You guys have a deep workforce, a very deep workforce. Have you ever talked to the teaching employees on the way you need to method minutes and rotations? There’s some fascinating decisions to make.
Schlenk: (Laughs) Yeah, that is a headache for Nate, not for me. Hear, it was an enormous benefit for us final yr, clearly in a condensed season, and we had a number of guys get injured and we have been in a position to transfer the following man in. That is the place having a great group of fellows is extraordinarily essential. However, yeah, we do have a variety of guys. A few of the guys we signed perceive the scenario they’re coming into, and the place they match on this function. Gallo [Danilo Gallinari] was the right instance of that final yr. He is an enormous free-agency signing for us, however we made it extraordinarily clear to the man that is been a starter his complete profession that he could be taking part in behind John. And he accepted that function and clearly excelled in that for us as effectively.
CBS Sports activities: How do you consider the Japanese Convention? Do you suppose it is honest to say it could be stronger than the Western Convention?
Schlenk: The West continues to be extraordinarily good however I believe we now have a variety of good groups within the East as effectively. You realize you have a look at among the issues that Chicago and Miami did this summer time to bolster themselves. Clearly, Milwaukee’s not going wherever because the defending champs. Everybody is aware of the expertise that Brooklyn has. You realize Boston is at all times a great workforce. Toronto has had type of an off yr, however you assume they will be proper again the place they have been. We’re one of many new youngsters on the block. The Pacers are at all times an especially good workforce, so there’s a variety of depth in our convention. Perhaps we do not have all of the star energy that they do out within the West, however we have seen a migration of a few of these guys within the West to the East in the previous couple of years so. … Sadly, they’ve all gone to Brooklyn.
CBS Sports activities: Yeah they’ve! They’ve gone to Brooklyn.
Schlenk: (Laughing) Yep.
CBS Sports activities: How good will the Nets be in the event that they play with out Kyrie Irving?
CBS Sports activities: Not everybody likes the play-in format for the playoffs. Do you?
Schlenk: Yeah, I believe so. I imply, that is a assured spot now, proper? When you end seventh or eighth, it’s important to earn it, however I believe it is good for the league. You realize, I believe it is clearly good for followers. It creates extra groups late within the season which have one thing to play for.
CBS Sports activities: Is it power?
Schlenk: Yeah and you are feeling that. It is dramatic. We noticed final yr with Lakers and Golden State taking part in two video games the final week of the season within the playoffs. These are thrilling. That is good tv and any time you’ve gotten that I believe it is good for the league.
CBS Sports activities: What is the … I do know you are alleged to say championship — however by way of vary, what’s the spectrum that is honest to Nate, to the workforce, to you, what is the vary of expectations this yr?
Schlenk: I will be actual candid with you right here. Our purpose is to attempt to have residence courtroom this yr and to attempt to be one of many top-four groups within the East. Is it going to be straightforward? Actually not. As we simply mentioned, the East is an efficient convention, however final yr we have been fifth, ended up tying for fourth, misplaced the tiebreaker, so we expect it is attainable.
CBS Sports activities: Are there particular guys that must make a leap?
Schlenk: No, I believe due to the depth we now have, we’re not relying essentially on one or two guys the way in which another groups are however to your level, we really feel that De’Andre Hunter coming off the knee damage and what we noticed the primary a part of the yr earlier than he had his surgical procedure is in a great place to make a leap. Cam [Reddish] type of falls in that very same class, too, the place he handled a PRP injection final yr and missed the second half of the top of the season, and so these guys, to your level, guys who’ve been within the league now for, effectively, a yr and a half, I assume, since they misplaced (laughs) — had a shortened yr they’d be in that place the place you would possibly be capable to see a leap from these guys.
CBS Sports activities: I like Cam. I do know that he was a uncooked expertise. I believed you guys bought a possible steal.
Schlenk: He is bought all of the expertise and potential on this planet. It is simply as we talked about, he performed in his rookie yr which bought minimize quick due to the pandemic and the second yr he had an damage so he is nonetheless studying the NBA sport.
CBS Sports activities: All proper, Travis Schlenk, let me attempt to get you philosophical right here. What’s the greatest resolution that you’ve got made in your profession?
Schlenk: One of the best resolution I made was in 2009. Larry Riley and Don Nelson got here to me and mentioned, “You realize we” — I used to be the assistant coach on the time they got here to me and mentioned — “we expect that you’ve got a great eye for expertise. We wish you to go to the entrance workplace.” And at first, I used to be slightly postpone as a result of I appreciated teaching. My spouse and I had simply had our first youngster. I decided to do it and it clearly labored out effectively for me so …
CBS Sports activities: It certain did.
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/information/hawks-gm-travis-schlenk-discusses-trae-youngs-development-and-what-to-expect-after-last-seasons-playoff-run/ | Hawks GM Travis Schlenk discusses Trae Younger’s growth, and what to anticipate after final season’s playoff run