Former Hawks exec poised to get last laugh after surprise exit

One former Hawks executive is poised to get the last laugh with his new team after his surprise exit from Atlanta.
Former Atlanta Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk
Former Atlanta Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks’ issues getting potential No. 1 pick Alexandre Sarr in for a private workout before the 2024 NBA Draft have been reported with Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer saying that the big man’s team wants to avoid the Hawks.

It is a decision that could cost him roughly $9 million Fischer said on the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast on June 20. 

It could be even more damning for the Hawks.

“Washington has the league convinced its focused on selecting Alex Sarr from the Perth Wildcats,” Fischer wrote on June 21. “The Wizards, according to people familiar with the situation, invested the most time and resources of any NBA club sending various personnel to Australia to evaluate Sarr. This situation is also considered the preferred outcome from Sarr’s camp.”

Not only would this mean Sarr wants to land with a division rival, but he would also be aiming to land with former Hawks president Travis Schlenk, who stepped down in December 2022 in a surprise move. 

The Wizards hired Schlenk – the architect of the Hawks’ 2021 Eastern Conference Finals squad –  to be their Senior Vice President of Player Personnel in June 2023.

Details behind Schlenk’s exit have revealed the trade to acquire Dejounte Murray played a role.

To what extent remains unclear. But Schlenk can take solace in knowing the Hawks have regressed since his departure. The Wizards have been worse, but Sarr could represent a turning point for both organizations.

Sarr had spoken highly of playing for Atlanta and is familiar with the area. He shares representation with Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who is coming off his first NBA Finals appearance. 

The trade sending Doncic to Dallas for Trae Young still sparks debate among Hawks fans. 

If Sarr pans out with the Wizards, the narrative could turn very ugly for General Manager Landry Fields (who was not with the organization then) and Co. very quickly. They are already navigating murky waters with their potential decision to trade Murray or Young this offseason.

Hawks must hit on No. 1 pick in 2024 NBA Draft

Fischer characterized Sarr’s team’s stance as prioritizing fit over draft slot. The Hawks’ mindset has to be the same, especially if they are still torn between two candidates.

At this point, their decision would seem to be Donovan Clingan or Zaccharie Risacher.

Clingan could offer a higher floor and greater immediate impact. But Risacher’s ceiling could be higher, amplified by him being a wing while Clingan is a pure center. The Hawks could use help in both perimeter defense and rim protection.

The Hawks have also been linked to Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard, who offers two-way potential despite being on the smaller side.

The draft is just five days away, so the Hawks will need to figure something out quickly.