Key behind Atlanta Hawks exec’s surprising exit revealed

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The details behind the surprising exit of former Atlanta Hawks president Travis Schlenk make it sound more like an ouster than a mutual parting of ways. But the end results are likely yet to be realized since things are still settling down and positions are being filled. We might be able to glean a lot from what has already taken place.

Sam Amick of The Athletic (subscription required) reported that, among other issues, trading for Dejounte Murray was a source of contention.

That rift left Schlenk on the wrong side of the vote and, ultimately, on the outside looking in as Amick says the “advisory role” the architect of this group was assuming was mostly nominal leaving him free to join another organization.

It leaves the Hawks’ future extremely clouded as they gear up for the Toronto Raptors.

Former Atlanta Hawks exec was against trading for Dejounte Murray

The cost to acquire Murray from the San Antonio Spurs came out to three first-round picks, two pick swaps, as well as two players. Danilo Gallinari was subsequently waived, signed with the Boston Celtics, and tore his ACL. There is also little chance the luxury-tax-averse Hawks wanted to pay him the $20-plus million he was owed.

It is the other player that hurts most with the Hawks sending Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings after signing him to a four-year, $63 million extension last summer.

Huerter is averaging 15.8 points and shooting 42% from deep this season.

The biggest reason for the Hawks making that deal was again to remain under the luxury tax threshold. They will see forward De’Andre Hunter’s four-year, $32 million extension kick in and need to plan their offer for Murray who is a free agent after the 2024 season.

It is an unfortunate outcome but is still only part of the potential fallout that could come from all of this change.

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Amick also reports that there was some level of split regarding star point guard Trae Young. The face of the franchise signed a five-year, $215 million extension last year and has said he wants to win championships in Atlanta. But he has also come under scrutiny for his leadership, decision-making (shot selection), and defense.

Some of that is self-inflicted while some of it is beyond his control.

Young’s decision to skip a game earlier this season did little to repair the former issue while his size will always be a limiting factor defensively.

There is also the matter of forward John Collins who ironically saved a Hawks win after Murray and Young both missed jump shots in the waning moment of a 113-111 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Collins was the first pick of Schlenk’s tenure and, despite constantly being in trade rumors for the last few seasons, the big man said he was surprised to see the change, especially with it being made during the season. The former Wake Forest star also said that nothing was explained about the move, the players were just informed that it had happened.

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Add in the speculation over head coach Nate McMillan’s future and there is no level of the organization not in or near a state of flux.