The Hawks have two second round picks in the upcoming draft, the first of which being the first pick of the round. With this year’s draft being one of the deepest in recent memory, Atlanta will have a terrific opportunity to find a player that can contribute as early as this season. The Hawks also posses the final pick in the draft, but that is essentially like an undrafted free agent pick-up. These targets will focus on the players Atlanta might select at the 31st pick.
Position: Power Forward
There is talk about the Hawks targeting a big man with their first-round pick, but this draft is loaded with talent in the frontcourt, especially in the back end of the first-round and beginning of the second round. Even Coach Budenholzer, who holds everyone to high expectations defensively, would blush at Bell’s effort on the defensive end. It is non-stop hustle on that side of the ball, and it is where Bell makes his presence felt. He averaged nearly two blocks a game while playing in just 28.9 minutes per game, and his instincts also allow Bell to disrupt passing lanes, as he averaged 1.3 steals per contest as well for the Ducks.
Despite being one of the best defensive prospects in the draft, Bell will probably fall outside of the first-round due to his poor offensive game. He is a terrific offensive rebounder and can finish around the rim, but he lacks offensive skills to score in one-on-one situations. However, Bell did show continued signs of improvement in his junior season. His free-throw percentage increased twenty points to 70%, and he even showed a willingness to keep defenses honest with his jump shot. Perhaps Hawks University could do Bell wonders on the offensive end, but his presence alone on defense makes him worthy of this pick.
Every season there are several college stars that slip to the second round for one reason or another, only to continue that success at the NBA level. Isaiah Thomas and Draymond Green are a couple recent ones that have become superstars in today’s NBA. One of this year’s rookie of the year candidates, Malcolm Brogdon, was also an NCAA Player of the Year candidate a year ago, but was not drafted until the 36th pick. Swanigan is another one of those players that fits that bill. He was a one-man wrecking crew for Purdue, but has not gotten the attention he deserves coming into the draft because it is hard to project what position he is going to play at the next level.
Frankly, it should not matter if Swanigan is a little undersized, the guy can flat out ball. He can score in a multitude of ways. He shot 44.7% from behind the arc (Mike Budenholzer would love that from his big men), has a sweet stroke from the mid-range and free-throw line and has a number of effective moves to get buckets in the post. His 6’9″ frame may be smaller for the center position, but he makes up for it with tremendous strength that can bully smaller defenders. It also has not stopped him from being one of the best rebounders in all of college basketball. Swanigan averaged 12.5 rebounds per game and has a unique ability to find his teammates, as he averaged over 3 assists a game, becoming the first player since Tim Duncan to average over 18 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists in college. He is without a doubt one of the more slept on prospects in this year’s draft and might be available in the second round.
College: Oklahoma State
The first priority for the Hawks this offseason should be finding a quality back-up point guard. Atlanta experienced first hand just how frustrating it can be without one. Malcolm Delaney was just miserable in his rookie season, and Jose Calderon will be a free agent that the Hawks will likely not keep. With the free agent market for a back-up point guard thin this offseason, Atlanta’s best option may be to find a point guard through the draft.
Evans may tell you he is 6’1″, but in reality he is probably a shade under six-foot, making him one of the smallest prospects in this year’s draft class. His size was not an issue at Oklahoma State, as he averaged 19.0 points and 6.5 assists on his way first-team All Big-12 honors, though it has made him a less effective finisher around the rim than he would like. Evans only shot 45% on two-point shots and had a hard time finishing over much bigger defenders. He does have a 6’4″ wingspan and can be a tenacious defender. His work ethic is well-documented, and like most players under 6′, Evans is completely fearless with a desire to be as great as possible. This NBA draft class is not loaded with many great point guard options outside of the lottery, but Evans would be a nice pickup for the Hawks at a position of need.