Danny Ferry is not ready to say whether either first-round draft pick will wear a Hawks uniform next season. However, the general manager acknowledged that player development will be of utmost importance for 20-year-old Lucas Nogueira and 19-year-old Dennis Schroeder.
The Hawks passed on a contingent of college players who many consider more NBA ready. Now they must turn to free agency to build a roster for next season.
The Hawks have seven players from last season who will become unrestricted free agents Monday, including Josh Smith. Two restricted free agents await qualifying offers. Just six players are under contract (three guaranteed, three non-guaranteed contracts).
“I do think both the guys we drafted in the first round can be very solid parts of our future,” Ferry said following Thursday’s NBA draft. “We have to continue to build our roster and hopefully have a good mix of young guys that you develop and grow. Those help your program be sustainable. It’s also important to have guys who have some experience, have some feel for the game and feel for the NBA.”
Nogueira was taken with the No. 16 pick by the Celtics, who traded his rights to the Hawks. He played the past four seasons professionally with Asefa Estudiantes Madrid. He averaged 5.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 13.3 minutes in 32 games last season in the Spanish ACB league.
Schroeder was taken with the No. 17 pick, the first of the Hawks’ two scheduled first-rounders. He played the past four seasons professionally in Germany, most recently with the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig in the top Beko League. He averaged 11.9 points, 3.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 24.7 minutes in 31 games.
Last season the Hawks took Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins and Virginia’s Mike Scott, opting for established college players rather than more raw prospects. Each made the roster out of training camp and other than short NBA Development League stints were contributors. Ferry said he bypassed the college ranks this year because Nogueira and Schroeder were the best available players.
“They were the guys we had high on our board,” Ferry said. “We felt like this draft had strengths. We felt like the point guard position was a strength in this draft. We felt like the center position was a strength in this draft, compared to most. And we felt like the international market, there were good international players. The situation in the first round just kind of all came together that way.”
Ferry did not rule out the possibility that one or more of the draft picks could be traded, but he did make it clear that he was pleased with each selection.
The Hawks explored moving up in the draft and tried to get the Mavericks’ No. 13 pick that was obtained by the Celtics, Ferry said. They back off when it appeared Nogueira and Schroeder would fall to them a few picks later. However, after the Bucks selected at No. 15, Ferry pulled off the trade with the Celtics (via the Mavericks) to move up one spot and ensure both players would be available. The Mavericks got the Hawks pick at No. 18, which turned into the rights to Miami guard Shane Larkin.
In all, for the No. 18 pick, Ferry got the rights to Nogueira, the rights to Bucknell center Mike Muscala (at No. 44) and Mavericks guard Jared Cunningham. All three Hawks draftees will be in Atlanta on Saturday for a news conference.
The Hawks traded both of their original second-round picks. They sent Raul Neto (No. 47) to the Jazz for a second-round pick in 2015 and James Ennis (No. 50) to the Heat for a conditional second-round pick in 2017.
With the draft concluded, Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer have turned their attention to free agency. Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson are restricted free agents, and the Hawks have until Sunday to make them qualifying offers. Monday is the start of free agency. With $33 million in salary-cap space, the Hawks will set their sights on some big names, including Dwight Howard, and others to fill out the roster.
“Getting through the draft, this was important,” Ferry said. “We will start to focus on the next step, and obviously we have a little more idea of what our roster is now and what the possibilities are now.”