The Atlanta Hawks are still active despite the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery and Combine both in the rearview and the 2023 NBA Draft still several weeks away.
“Igor Kokoskov has signed a deal to become Quin Snyder’s top assistant” reported ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on May 26. “Kokoskov…previously worked for Snyder on his Utah Jazz and Missouri staffs.”
Kokoskov was one of four early candidates rumored to be in contention for spots on Snyder’s revamped bench after the 56-year-old head coach finished out the 2022-23 campaign with his predecessor, Nate McMillan’s staff. Now, he gets to put his own group together to help implement his vision for the Hawks next season.
To that end, all of the previously linked candidates have previous ties to Snyder.
Most, including Kokoskov, have ties dating back to Snyder’s Jazz tenure. But Kokoskov was also on Snyder’s first staff as a head coach while at the University of Missouri.
Kokoskov had a cup of coffee as an NBA head coach, getting just one season at the helm in 2018-19 before being relieved of his duties in favor of Phoenix’s pursuit of Monty Williams who was dismissed this offseason.
The first European-born head coach in NBA history, Kokoskov’s Suns went 19-63 in his lone season.
But there is a much more intriguing angle that could be at play here, even if it’s a long shot.
Atlanta Hawks hire Luka Doncic’s former head coach
When Kokoskov was hired in Phoenix, the belief was that the Suns intended to select Luka Doncic — whom he coached on the Serbian National Team — with the No. 1 overall pick. They instead went with Deandre Ayton, whose tenure in the desert has been turbulent, while the Hawks and Dallas Mavericks worked together to get Doncic to Dallas while Trae Young landed in Atlanta.
But, with reports that there are internal fears Doncic could demand a trade if things don’t improve in Dallas, perhaps the Hawks are also positioning themselves to pounce.
Talk of the Hawks’ next blockbuster trade involving Young or Dejounte Murray may be overblown. Their goal should be to keep their powder dry while seeing what may develop with Doncic in Dallas.
“Team sources have acknowledged…that fear exists that Doncic, who publicly and privately expressed extreme frustration this season, could consider requesting a trade as soon as the summer of 2024 if Dallas doesn’t make significant progress by then,” reported ESPN NBA insider Tim MacMahon on April 8.
Dallas missed the postseason despite trading for Kyrie Irving and sat players at the end of the regular season to improve their standing in the 2023 Draft Lottery. It worked but Doncic was not thrilled and the Mavericks were fined.
Koskoskov had a front-row seat as things potentially began to erode during the 2021-22 season as a Mavs assistant.
A Doncic trade remains a pipe dream for a few reasons.
Most notably, Doncic is still under contract through at least 2026 with a player option of 2027 on a five-year, $215 million supermax contract. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is also not shy about exhausting all avenues to add talent to his team’s roster.
But the Hawks could be uniquely poised to pounce on Doncic with a slew of players on the upswing making decent money and draft picks at their disposal.