Danny Ferry has 361 more days to prepare for this year’s NBA draft than he had for his first as Hawks general manager. He may need every one of them.
The Hawks have four selections in Thursday night’s draft, with picks at Nos. 17 and 18 in the first round and 47 and 50 overall in the second round, two more than last year. The Hawks enter the draft with a roster in progress, consisting only of three players with guaranteed contracts and three players with non-guaranteed contracts. In addition, new coach Mike Budenholzer remained in his position as the top assistant with the Spurs through the recently completed NBA Finals.
Ferry was hired as the Hawks’ president of basketball operations and general manager June 25, with the draft three days away. He came from the front office of the Spurs, who had just one draft pick — the next-to-last 59th selection. Ferry chose John Jenkins and Mike Scott after passing on younger, rawer prospects. (The Spurs chose Marcus Denmon, who played in France.) With a year of an established scouting and evaluation program in place, Ferry said he is ready to take the next step in building the franchise.
With such an incomplete roster and the start of free agency arriving four days after the draft, the question remains whether the Hawks’ selections will be based on need or the best player available. The answer is not that simple.
“The draft is a very important part of building your overall team,” Ferry said. “That is talent level, but that is also culture and character that you want your organization to be about. So, I think all of the points all matter at the end of the day. Fit to your program, talent level, what your needs are — at the end of the day all balance to come out and put you in the right position to make a decision.”
The greatest criteria will be that no matter where they are selected, the players are competitors who can function as part of a team, Ferry and Budenholzer have said.
“As far as the program that Danny and I want to build going forward, what that program is going to look like, what it’s going to feel like, is a group of competitors,” Budenholzer said last month at his introductory news conference. “I think he and I both value competitiveness and a group that is really committed and focused on improving daily individually and as a group and as a team.”
Ferry and his staff have traveled extensively to watch and evaluate this year’s group of players. Ferry took a scouting trip to Europe before the playoffs. The Hawks were well-represented at last month’s NBA Scouting Combine in Chicago, where they watched workouts and interviewed fewer than 20 players. Since then, the Hawks have held workouts for players in Atlanta. Ferry will not disclose who has worked out, but he insists the private sessions are only part of a bigger evaluation puzzle.
“While they are here you do get to sit down and talk to them and get to know them as people,” Ferry said. “We have, throughout the year, our scouts, myself, have been on the road scouting games, talking to coaches, talking to people in college basketball to get a good understanding of who the talented players are and what kind of people they are. There has been a lot of work throughout the year.
“Yes, the draft workouts have been with us now, but we’ll take the whole year and look at the process as we make our decisions.”
Ferry said the extended time to speak to each prospect and ask follow-up questions is as important as a workout.
The Hawks also could trade one or more of their picks, and moving up or down in the draft is a possibility. Ferry said the team is open to every option.
Not having the head coach involved in the evaluation process has not been an issue, Ferry said. He attended Games 1 and 5 of the NBA Finals. The relationship forged between Ferry and Budenholzer from their time in San Antonio will be the key to making the rare situation work. The two have an understanding of the style of play and type of player they want, in the draft and free agency, as they put their stamp on the franchise.
“We’ll be in a very solid spot because of that,” Ferry said.