By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s Travis Schlenk has been a popular target for trade talk as the only general manager holding three first-round picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft, including No. 3 overall.
Overall, the Hawks have four picks in the top 34. That’s more than enough depth to attract interest, but the rebuilding Hawks are even more attractive trade targets because they also have about $20 million in salary cap space. That creates more attractive options for a team needing to unload a contract in a trade.
Schlenk says he is answering every call and considering all options — including the possibility of trading up or down from the No. 3 spot.
It’s an exciting time for Schlenk, who never held such a high draft pick in his previous job as assistant GM with the Golden State Warriors.
“This is the highest pick that I’ve been a part of,” Schlenk said last week. “At Golden State, the highest pick we had was six. So it’s exciting. Having the four picks, along with the third pick, we get a lot of phone calls, which is exciting as well, and we’re going to go through all the options that are presented to us and make the best decision, hopefully.”
He says he’s comfortable with the idea of opening the 2018-19 season with four rookies.
Schlenk is planning the Hawks’ future with a new coach. Former Philadelphia assistant Lloyd Pierce was hired on May 11 to replace Mike Budenholzer, now the Bucks coach.
Schlenk might use his first pick to select a forward-center to pair with 2017-18 rookie John Collins. Among players who could be available are Duke’s Marvin Bagley III , Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson and Mo Bamba of Texas.
Guards Luka Doncic of Slovenia, Trae Young of Oklahoma and forward Michael Porter of Missouri could be alternatives for Schlenk.
Pierce stressed defense in his first news conference in Atlanta. Schlenk said it’s important to land players with balanced offensive and defensive skills.
“Obviously when you look at the best teams in the league, the majority of the time they’re good defensive teams,” Schlenk said. “But at the end of the day, if you’re not scoring 100 points you’re probably not winning, so we’re going to look for guys that are two-way players, who can play defensively, but also we’ve got to be able to score the ball on the other end.”
Bagley qualifies as that two-way talent, but he could be drafted at the No. 2 spot by Sacramento.
“I put a lot of work into this and I think I’m the best player in the draft,” Bagley said after his draft workout in Atlanta last week. “I mean that in the most humble way possible, not to be cocky.”
Phoenix is projected to select Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the top pick.
Jackson is an accomplished shot blocker with less polish on the offensive end. He is regarded by many to have the potential shooting skills to develop into a well-rounded NBA big man.
With point guard Dennis Schroder’s future in Atlanta uncertain, the Hawks can look for talent at any position. Their wealth of picks could make it easier to take a chance on Doncic, who has the skills to play multiple positions even though his ability to create space in the NBA has been questioned by some critics.
“I’ve maintained all along, and I honestly believe this, we’re going to take the best player,” Schlenk said. “We’re in a situation where we’re looking to add the most talent we can, and we’re going to get a good player at the third pick.”
The No. 3 spot is the Hawks’ highest since 2007, when they selected Al Horford at No. 3.
Atlanta also has the No. 19 and No. 30 picks in the first round and No. 34 early in the second round. Those selections give Schlenk a wealth of options, including a deal for a higher pick next year.
Schlenk said he has considered if the possibility to “trade back to collect more assets would be advantageous.”