The Hawks will draft 21st in this year’s NBA draft. This is a draft that has a lot of outstanding prospects at the top but there is certainly a significant drop off outside of the top seven or so guys. Atlanta will likely be weighing the option of trying to move up in the draft with available trade pieces such as Jeff Teague. However, it is very unlikely that they find their way inside the top 10.
Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky
There is no doubt it took a little while for Labissiere to get acquainted to the college game. For the majority of the first half of the season, the big man looked lost and certainly did not look like one of the most highly recruited players in the nation. Labissiere went through his fair share of growing pains but eventually became Kentucky’s most effective big man. He lit up the LSU Tigers late in the season and began to show NBA teams what they had been looking for all year. Labissiere is a 6 foot 11 center with a wingspan well over 7 feet. He is long with a tremendous ability to block shots. He averaged 1.6 blocks a game in just 15 minutes for the Wildcats his freshman season. He will probaby never be a fantastic scorer in the NBA, but he should develop into a solid rebounder and true rim protector. Labissiere is raw and that is why scouts have him going from anywhere in the top 10 all the way into the 20s. The Hawks may have to move up to snag him, but given their noted struggles on the boards, Labissiere should be on the top of their list.
Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State
Beasley was a Freshman this past season at Florida State after playing his high school basketball at St. Francis (just outside of Atlanta). The Hawks obviously have a need for a fresh face at the shooting guard positions, as Kyle Korver will could find his way to the bench as early as this year. At 19, Beasley will likely not be ready to be a major contributor right out of the gate but the talent to be an NBA star is certainly there. In his freshman year with the Noles, Beasley averaged 15.6 points on 47% shooting and shot close to 40% from the three-point line. He already has a developed jump shot that can continue to improve in Atlanta and is terrific at creating offense for himself. There is certainly room for improvement in Beasley’s game, but he has star potential which can be rare for someone going late in the first round.
Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State
After watching a lot of Michigan State basketball, it is hard to find why a guy like Valentine is not going in the top 10. He simply did it all for the Spartans in his four years at East Lansing and is coming off a year in which he averaged 19.2 points , 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds. At 6 feet 6 inches and a wingspan of almost 7 feet, Valentine can handle and distribute the ball like a guard. He is unselfish and seems to be like the perfect type of player for the system the Hawks run. His basketball IQ is tops in this year’s draft and shot 44.4 % from three in his senior year with the Spartans. There are worries about how is game will translate in the NBA, but this guy is a baller and teams that pass up on him outside of the top 10 will surely regret it. The Hawks will likely have to move up 5 or 6 spots to draft Valentine, but it is a very plausible situation if Valentine slides to around the 15 spot.