The Hawks need a rim protector. As a Hawks fan, I have heard this far too many times to count. I’m sure you have, too. Many around the NBA doubt the Hawks due to their low rebounding numbers. A lot of this can be attributed to Coach Bud’s emphasis on getting back on the other side of the court. But as much as I hate to say it, in some ways the critics are right. The Hawks ranked 30th in offensive rebounding and 22nd in defensive rebounding during the regular season. The Hawks are a great team, as evidenced by their 60 wins, but no team is perfect. Luckily for the Hawks, they already have their future rim protector stashed overseas. Danny Ferry has done a great job with second round selections, as Mike Scott and Mike Muscala have both been great contributors off the bench. Moose is another internal option to help the Hawks rebounding woes. This past offseason, Ferry drafted two more second-round talents that I believe will help contribute to the team in Lamar Patterson and Walter Tavares. Tavares was drafted with the 43rd overall pick as a raw talent with outstanding physical tools. Called “Edy” by many, Tavares measures in at 7’3” and 260 pounds. Even more impressive: his 7’9” wingspan. If he hits the NBA, his wingspan will be good for best in the league, which currently belongs to Rudy Gobert. Tavares already has the size to contribute, so why didn’t he make the roster right out of the gate? He’s simply raw.
Tavares picked up basketball later in life at just 17 years of age, but he’s learning quickly. He hails from the small nation of Cape Verde, with a population of just 500,000 people. He was discovered by a tourist at age 17, and never looked back. It’s been basketball ever since. He began playing for CB Gran Canaria’s junior team and developed there until 2011, when he was loaned to UB La Palma, a team in the LEB Oro, Spain’s second tier league. In 2013, he was returned to Gran Canaria and began his tenure playing in the Liga ACB, the highest league in Spain and considered by many as one of the highest levels of competition in the world for hoops. This is the league that Pau Gasol played in, and Mike Muscala led the league in rebounding in last season. Tavares has played for Gran Canaria ever since, and has continued to play for the team since being drafted this past summer. His coach, Pedro Martinez (not the pitcher) was a driving force in helping Marc Gasol’s game. Tavares has increased his scoring and rebounding numbers in every season since joining Gran Canaria, and averaged 8 points and 8 rebounds per game last season in 22.4 minutes per game. While these numbers won’t pop out to you, realize these numbers are deflated. For example, Gasol averaged 12.6 PPG and 5.3 RPG in his last season playing in the Liga ACB. His rookie season in the NBA a year later he averaged 17.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG. A lot of this has to do with him playing nearly ten more minutes per game, but it’s clear that Tavares is ready to rebound in the NBA.
Tavares is great at working the pick and roll and has learned to create spacing for his teammates. His offense game mostly consists of dunks and putbacks. He isn’t a guy who is going to shoot threes, but with Tavares’ size, he will be playing under the hoop. However, he is a respectable free throw shooter for a big man his size, averaging around 65-75%. Unfortunately, as of now he lacks solid post moves, but Tavares is touted for his defensive ability. He is a hard worker, which fits the mold of the Hawks, and has opened up his offensive game a little bit with his addition of his hook shot. He plays great pick-and-roll defense, has a great ability to read and help off the screen and with his size, of course, protect the hoop. Tavares must improve on his rebounding positioning to maximize his potential, but being a newbie to the game, this is something Tavares will learn with time. He also must commit less silly fouls, as he has been known to leave his feet rather easily. Both of these weaknesses can be attributed to his lack of experience. A lot of hype has been built around Tavares being brought over next season. Is he ready? It really depends on what Coach Bud and Co. think. If he impresses in Summer League, I think bringing him over is a no doubter. He fills a big need and I think Mike Muscala is ready to take over Pero Antic’s role as the backup Center, letting Tavares get minutes behind him. Unfortunately, there have also been whispers of a potential Antic return, as he will hit free agency this offseason. Atlanta will have to choose one or the other. Tavares may benefit from another year in Spain, but Pero’s play has been abysmal. Unfortunately, with the amount of minutes Coach Bud continues to give Pero, there’s strong reason to believe he may be brought back. The Hawks are not going to carry four Centers. For now, it looks like there is probably a 50/50 chance he is in a Hawks uniform next season. Either way, when Tavares hits Atlanta, he should be a defensive force if he continues to learn the game at a fast pace. The sky is the limit for Tavares, nobody knows how high his potential truly is. It’s up to the Hawks whether they think the 7’3” prospect will benefit from hitting the NBA floor. We all know it takes big men longer to develop, especially in the case who has been exposed to the game for only a handful of years. You can’t teach Tavares’ size. Want to see Tavares for yourself? Check out the game tape below. And don’t forget Hawks fans, let us know what you think!