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The NBA Draft Lottery in Review: Has Lady Luck just saved the Atlanta Hawks?

The NBA Draft lottery is a favourite night on the calendar for diehard NBA fans. Nothing quite hits like watching star players hide their disappointment, realizing they sacrificed a year of their prime for the 7th overall pick, *cough, Damian Lillard, cough*, or GM’s despair as they miss out on the chance to draft a generational talent. Queue the Jerry West video:

But if last year felt like playing the Powerball yesterday felt more like going in for the raffle at your kids school fair. Sure, that bottle of wine would go down pretty easy but it isn’t your typical Jackpot prize. Rest assured. What this year’s Lottery lacked in stakes it made up for in drama. Last year it felt as though we all knew Victor Wembanyama was destined to be a San Antonio Spur. Whether it was luck, fate, or the future face of the league begging to not have to play with Jalen Green there was an air of, well, of course THEY got him. This year I’m pretty sure every fan outside of the state of Georgia had forgotten the Hawks had a 3% chance at the number one pick. See Sam Vecinie for proof!

But as some balls pinged, other balls ponged and one lucky table tennis ball might have just changed the fate of the Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. See, the Atlanta script had been written for a while now. As far back as the All-Star break league sources had mumbled and grumbled about Trae Young potentially heading to San Antonnio to pair with Victor Wembanyama. Dejounte Murray must’ve felt a little dirty coming back into Hawks practice the day after the trade deadline. Rumoured to be more available than Tickets to a Morbius screening, Dejounte stuck around and balled out in the back half of the season but I don’t even know if I’d be renting an apartment in Atlanta in Murray’s shoes, I’d be looking at an AirBNB each week knowing that I could have to pack my bags at any moment.

Any offseason plans have gone out the window with this prized asset boarding the plane to Hartsfield-Jackson yesterday afternoon. So, what the hell do the Hawks do from here? The way I see it there are three scenarios the Hawks could logically pursue, four if we’re splitting hairs.

Option 1: The Nuclear Rebuild:

If Landry Fields has been scanning through League Pass over the course of this season there’s a chance that at various times he’s become very jealous of the likes of Sam Presti, David Griffin and even Leon Rose. All three GM’s have built winning teams over the last couple of years all while hording excess draft picks, ready to sustain a championship charge if all is going well or make that theoretical star trade that fuels 80% of the NBA articles that flash across your screen on a day to day. The Hawks found themselves in the opposite situation, losing team, less picks. Guess what… That sucks! No one wants to be in that situation so option 1 would be the Nuclear option. AKA, blowing the current roster into smithereens.

With young talents on the roster like Jalen Johnson, Kobe Bufkin, AJ Griffin and Onyeka Okongwu the Hawks could opt to move both of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray this offseason with a view to stocking up on as many future draft picks as possible. Reports from the likes of Tim McMahon and Evan Sidery have suggested that the Spurs, who currently control Atlanta’s draft from 2025 to 2027 harbour interest in Trae Young. According to Dennis Scott, a sideline reporter and 9-year NBA veteran, Dejounte would welcome the chance to reunite with the Spurs citing coach Greg Poppovich as a father figure. If either of their star Point Guards were to be dealt to San Antonio, Atlanta could recoup their draft picks that they previously spent on acquiring Dejounte, setting themselves up for a traditional rebuild. Whoever doesn’t end up in San Antonio could then be moved for additional draft assets. In my view the Pelicans, Magic, Lakers, Heat, Rockets and Jazz all could do with acquiring a PG upgrade going into the offseason and they all have the means to bring in one of Dejounte and Trae. Moving both Guards would leave the Hawks with their current young core, the number 1. Pick in the 2024 Draft, control of their picks going forward and additional draft capital ready to be used to add more players to the team or trade for a star when their young core is ready to compete.

Option 2: The Step Back to Step Forward:

At the end of the day, both Trae and Dejounte are great Point Guards, they just don’t fit together. It was a serious misallocation of assets to acquire Dejounte to pair with Trae back in the 2022 offseason. It’s left Atlanta unbalanced, small in the back court and it’s pushed Dejounte Murray away from his preferred position. So, with everyone distracted by lottery luck, why not admit defeat and move Dejounte, acknowledge that the experiment failed while being able to avoid major embarrassment because you have the Number 1 guy in the draft rocking up to practice next Summer. The fact of the matter is, Trae and Dejounte do not work together on the court and while that might suck it does mean that you could trade either without seeing a massive change in the fortunes of the team next year. With Trae Young and Dejounte Murray on the court this year the Atlanta Hawks were a -5.71 in 1611 minutes. Scale that up for a full season and you’re looking at the 7th worst team in the league, sandwiched between the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors. Two teams that tanked shamelessly post All-Star break this season. With Dejounte on, Trae off the Hawks were sitting at -0.78 Net rating, an improvement but that’s still hardly setting the world alight and in 774 minutes with just Trae, no Dejounte they were coming in at +3.54 Net Rating, I.E they were actually good! 7th best in the league good if you extrapolate that number to a full season. I’m not saying that if you move Dejounte suddenly this team is the 3rd best team in the Eastern Conference. What I am saying is that trading one of their stars wouldn’t neccessarily come with the same downsides (being awful) that your typical star trades come with.

If the Hawks moved Dejounte they could likely fetch two first rounders and an interesting player back. You can jump on the trade machine and work out what your favourite fit is. As mentioned above, roughly a third of the league could use a guy like Dejounte meaning Atlanta shouldn’t be short of offers this Summer. Post trade you’re looking at a Hawks team that gets back to being fully built around Trae. They likely hover in the same range that they have in previous seasons, floating around the play-in/playoffs, but, you open up more minutes for Kobe Bufkin who tore it up in the G-League this year:

Jalen Johnson gets to try out being a genuine Robin to Trae’s batman this year potentially leading to another jump in his level of play. (Sidenote: I’d be looking to give all the touches I can to Jalen, he’s 6ft 9, athletic as hell, has rapidly increased his 3 point volume and efficiency, and he’s one of the best transition players/playmakers in the league.) All of this opportunity sprouts for a small cost in actual team performance. Plus, you have the assets back. Depending on what team grabs Dejounte in this scenario you could clean up the wage bill long term as well. At the end of the day this scenario makes team building easier, restocks the cupboard with a few nice draft assets and it puts your young guys in a position where they can see plenty of touches next year. To me this is the most sensible option that Atlanta could take. But… We’ve only gone through two of our three options.

Option 3: Stars Baby! Big Juicy All-Stars!

Screw being sensible! This team just landed their way out of Eastern Conference territory! Prior to last night’s lottery the Hawks had a measly star trade package if one were to become available on the trade market. “Dejounte, our young guys, and well, we’re all in…. Hello?…Hello!?” That was Landry on the phone, trying to trade for an All-Star this off-season prior to yesterday’s lottery. Now the Hawks have a fringe All-Star in Dejounte, the young guys, and.. well… The number 1 god damn pick! Time for some big game hunting. If the front office looks at this team and concludes that they’re one piece away from real Eastern contention. (Not unlikely looking at the state of the Playoff Bracket in the East right now) they could choose to use this good fortune and turn it into a top 15/20 player to pair with Trae. If the Jimmy Butler rumours are true perhaps Dejounte and number 1 would be enticing for Miami… Maybe you get really crazy and you call up Phoenix, give Kevin Durant another fresh start in the city of Atlanta. You could even swing for two All-Stars. Cleveland currently has a crowded front court and the number 1 pick would represent an incredible return for Jarrett Allen.Trae gets the best defensive anchor he’s ever played with as well as an elite pick-and-roll big. Pair that with a Dejounte Murray for Brandon Ingram trade and suddenly you’re looking at dare we say it… A big 3? The Draft Lottery giveth and it taketh away… While Detroit fell to 5 for the 3rd consecutive year, Toronto lost their pick after tanking for the last 30 games of the season and 13 teams missed out on the chance to pick first, the Atlanta Hawks were given options last night. It might be hard to predict what Atlanta will do between now and Draft night but that might not be a bad thing. Yesterday’s franchise was mired in the middle of the NBA. Today’s could choose to go up, they could choose to go down, but the ping pong balls have granted them the right to choose…

Lets keep our eyes peeled!


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