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Hawks GM Schlenk says team looking to upgrade, not just run it back

Atlanta Hawks Introduce Draft Picks - Press Conference

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 30: President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk talks to the media during the press conference on July 30, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

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After a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk decided to let it ride. Rather than aggressively hunt upgrades, he counted on continuity and internal growth, and the Hawks ran it back.

Atlanta finished ninth in the East with a worsened defense, and made it out of the play-in only to be run out of the playoffs 4-1 by the shorthanded Heat.

Schlenk isn’t running it back this time, as he told 92.9 The Game in Atlanta.

Atlanta has two clear areas in need of an upgrade. The first is on defense, where the Hawks finished 26th in the league this season. Part of the challenge is adding quality defensive guards and wings to cover up the shortcomings of Trae Young, who is an All-NBA talent but is still a defensive liability. Having De’Andre Hunter healthy for an entire season would help, but there are questions about his development and, with that, how much to pay him in the contract extension he is eligible for this offseason. John Collins was not himself defensively and needs to take a step forward. The bottom line, the Hawks need a backup point guard and wings who are defensively oriented.

Second, they need a secondary shot creator to play with Young. Bogdan Bogdanovic was supposed to be that guy and he does it in spurts, but the Hawks need their Klay Thompson next to Stephen Curry, or even their Jalen Brunson next to Luka Doncic. When the Heat loaded up on Young, the Hawks struggled with Plan B.

It’s a lot to ask for a team already over the cap paying Young, Collins, and Danilo Gallinari more than $30 million each, plus Clint Capela and Bogdanovic more than $18 million.

Whatever happens, don’t expect the Hawks to just run it back. Schlenk learned his lesson.