Though Atlanta traded their Second Round selection to acquire Lamar Patterson in last year’s draft, they still have the 50th overall pick from the Raptors from the Lou Williams deal. If former University of North Carolina wing J.P. Tokoto is on the board as some predict he may, they would be foolish to pass up on him. Tokoto is not a score-first player, and many were surprised he declared after his junior season in which he only averaged 8.3 PPG. It’s his work on the other side of the ball that makes Tokoto an enticing prospect in my eyes. The way that Tokoto plays on-ball defense is what sticks out to me. It’s hard to find highlight videos of defense, but Tokoto was UNC’s defensive stopper in the ACC, one of the toughest conferences in college hoops. I truly think Tokoto has what it takes to be not just a good, but great defender at the next level. He can also do a little of everything. During his junior year at UNC, he averaged 4.3 assists from the three position, good for sixth in the ACC (he was the only forward to rank in the top 10). His passing ability is an underrated attribute to his game, and that type of selflessness is what the Hawks look for. He is also a good rebounder for his size on both ends of the floor, as he averaged 5.6 rebounds per game. He played a role for UNC that’s very similar to what Tony Allen does for the Memphis Grizzlies, though I am not trying to draw any comparisons to their individual abilities.
Tokoto is a balanced player with a high basketball IQ and leadership skills. I see him as a perfect fit as a “3 and D” player, a role that has proven to be instrumental to the Hawks success. While perimeter shooting is not his strong suit by any means, Tokoto still averaged 38% from beyond the arc this past season. Many say that with more consistency in his shooting motion, he can improve his outside shooting. He may be a couple years away, but I see Tokoto as a guy who can play a role similar to Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore. He can play great defense, is interchangeable between the 2 and 3 spots, and can hit outside shots when left open. I think he possesses the ability to hold down the defensive end on our second unit. Look, I’m not saying this kid is going to be an All-Star in this league, but he could be a valuable role player, which is what teams should be looking for in the second round. The Hawks have done a nice job developing players in recent years, and there have been whispers of Atlanta possibly acquiring a one-to-one D-League affiliate. Personally, I think Tokoto could have strongly benefitted from another year of college ball, but the Hawks would be able to develop this kid’s game either here in the states or overseas like they did with Lamar Patterson. They will definitely work with him on his outside shooting and his free throws (only 61% last year), which need improvement for his game to translate to the NBA. Either way, I love this kid’s skill set and fit this late in the draft. I think the fit is undeniable, I just hope that Marvin Williams hasn’t scared Atlanta away from those UNC wings. Tokoto would be a great second round add for Atlanta.
You can check out his junior season highlights here: