Travis Schlenk has turned the Atlanta Hawks into a long-term contender

Travis Schlenk came to Atlanta after a 12-year stint as the Golden State Warriors assistant general manager. Photo by kovop58 | Depositphotos

Since the summer of 2017, the Atlanta Hawks have improved through the NBA Draft and free agency, but one of their most important players in the rebuild doesn’t wear a jersey. Travis Schlenk came to Atlanta after a 12-year stint as the Golden State Warriors assistant general manager from 2004-2017. Schlenk guided the Dubs through a golden age that saw them win two championships in three years (2015 and 2017).

Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis | Depositphotos

His five years with the Hawks have been nothing short of shabby. He selected John Collins with the No. 19 picks in the 2017 NBA draft and, after the infamous Trae Young-Luka Dončić draft-night trade in 2018, the franchise’s improvements are evident. 

Young has improved each year as the Hawks continue to add to their previous year’s win totals. The sharpshooting playmaker out of Oklahoma shined in his first season: 19 points and eight assists per game. 

Young’s second year saw him add 10 points to his nightly scoring, and he finished the season averaging 29 points and nine assists, both top five in the league during the 2019-20 season PPG & 9 assists. Last season, Young averaged another 25 points and nine assists per game in the most efficient year of the initial three on his contract. 

The franchise rewarded him with a five-year, $207 million maximum contract extension that will stay with the franchise until the summer of 2027.

John Collins is also continuing to develop into a complete player as he enters his fifth NBA season. The fourth-year forward averaged 18 points and eight rebounds in a career-high 63 games after averaging 21 points and ten rebounds the season prior. Over the last two years, his career average of 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds have led to a $125 million extension with the franchise. 

Along with Young, Schlenk has found a hidden gem out of Maryland with the 19th overall pick, Kevin Huerter. The fourth-year player has earned various nicknames, from Red Velvet (for his red hair) to K’Von (how his teammates referred to him after a challenging game) while enjoying early success with the franchise. 

Huerter’s team role would fluctuate from the starting lineup to the 6th man role, as he fits both.  He has been an outstanding shooter, with an over 40% average across the last three years he has been on the team. 

The Hawks held the No. 4 and No. 10 picks in the 2019 draft, which they used on Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter (fresh off an NCAA Championship) out of Virginia and Duke’s Cam Reddish. Both players have made immediate impacts in their first two seasons by spreading the floor and playing solid defense. 

Schlenk also moved to acquire Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets last February, but he didn’t play until the beginning of the 2020-21 season due to a foot injury. It was a successful first campaign for Capela, who averaged a career-high 15 points and a league-best 14.3 rebounds per game. 

These new acquisitions have helped the team reemerge in the eastern conference after rebuilding for four years. Along with new players, the Hawks promoted Nate McMillan to the full-time head coach after their playoff exit in June. The signing came after McMillan guided the Hawks to a 27-11 record in the wake of Lloyd Pierce’s firing. 

State Farm Event Security Officer Michael Dennis has worked at State Farm Arena for years, returning to the arena’s days as Phillips Arena and witnessing the franchise’s recent 180-degree turn.  

“Watching the Hawks grow has been pretty cool to see, especially from an employee standpoint,” Dennis said. “When I started working there, the fans would boo and be rude because we were not good at all, but now that we are winning, everything has gotten better.” 

The Hawks’ most recent run ended on July 3 when they lost to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The game shocked many, including  ESPN analysts who grew skeptical of the Hawks after immensely struggling under Pierce.

State Farm Arena employee Davon Rowe has also been very pleased with the recent success of the team.

“The Hawks’ progress has been amazing,” Rowe said. “[They have been] drafting the right type of players who want to play hard for the city of Atlanta has been great for fans and the Hawks office,” Rowe added. “They only can get better from the Eastern Conference Finals, and the future looks bright giving Trae Young and John Collins max contracts. It shows the city cares about these players enough to win a championship.”