I know Gobert would be a great target for the Hawks. They need to improve their defense, and there are few better defenders than Gobert. He wouldn’t solve the Hawks’ problems with perimeter defense. But Gobert is so good at protecting the paint that it raises the level of his team’s defense.
Gobert was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year three times, All-Defense six times and All-NBA four times. Gobert is longer than Capela: 7 feet 1 inch with a reported wingspan of 7-9 versus 6-10 and 7-5. Gobert’s length, agility and instinct make him a fantastic defender and rebounder.
Gobert is the main reason the Jazz have been a great defensive team for several years. Utah’s defensive standings since Gobert became the full-time starter: seventh, third, second, first, 11th, first, and ninth. Gobert and Capela are a wash in attack, although Gobert is a better finisher due to superior touch around the rim. He would be a great pick-and-roll partner for Young.
Schlenk frequently points out that building rosters through the draft is less risky than adding veterans with long-term contracts. Errors in the draft are mitigated by the shorter and cheaper rookie-scale contracts. If a drafted player doesn’t work for his original team, there’s always another team that thinks he can unleash his potential. See the Hawks trade Cam Reddish for the Knicks in January.
The Hawks are a good team because Schlenk hit hard with Young. He’s not as good as Doncic, but he’s still the cornerstone of the franchise. Schlenk’s success with Young is one of the reasons the team’s salary cap is tight. Young’s All-NBA selection triggered a raise of about $35 million from the five-year, $207 million contract he signed in August. After the Hawks employed Young cheaply for four seasons, it’s time to pay.
We can’t judge Schlenk’s attempt to build a champion team around Young yet. The Hawks will have up to five more seasons to do so before Young’s contract expires. The final appearance in the East was proof that they were on their way, but the process hit a snag.
If things had gone as planned, the Hawks wouldn’t need so many defenders, scorers and playmakers on the perimeter. Reddish and De’Andre Hunter were supposed to provide that. The red is gone. Hunter has been inconsistent and injury prone. These are setbacks in the grand plan, but they can always turn into minor obstacles.
Schlenk has the flexibility to reshape the roster. He can’t sign expensive free agents, but the draft and trades are open avenues. The Hawks have several players with trade value and no excessively heavy contracts on the books. They got a first-round pick as part of the reddish trade. There is also internal player development. The Hawks have big questions under this heading.
Can Hunter become a top two-way winger? Can Collins still develop a dribbling, passing and shooting game? Is center Onyeka Okongwu, the No. 6 pick in 2020, ready for a bigger role which could include time as a power forward? Can the Hawks rely on Bogdan Bogdanovic after he burned out at the end of the last two seasons and recently underwent knee surgery?
Even if the Hawks answer yes to those questions, they will still need outside help. Delon Wright is a pending free agent after ably serving as a point guard this season. Danilo Gallinari could be set to leave as only $5m of his $21.5m salary for 2022-23 is guaranteed. If so, the Hawks will need a shot creator and a shooter for the bench unit.
Meeting these and other needs doesn’t have to mean making a big trade. If the Hawks decide to go that route, then Gobert is a great option to pursue.