Ah, it is that wonderful time of the year where we all get to drive ourselves crazy going through mock drafts trying to figure out who the Hawks are going to select. Going off the past two seasons, there is no reason to read this article, as Atlanta has gone totally against the grain in back to back drafts. It has paid off, though, with the team trading their first-round pick in 2015 for Tim Hardaway Jr., who broke out in his second season with Atlanta. Then the Hawks selected Taurean Prince with 12th overall pick in last year’s draft, which came as a huge surprise but Coach Bud looks have found exactly what he wanted in the lanky small-forward from Baylor.
This year is a little different with a new sheriff in town as general manager. With Travis Schlenk stepping in, and Mike Budenholzer stepping down as the President of Basketball Operations, things might be a little easier to gauge this time around. The Hawks possess the 19th pick in a NBA draft loaded with talent. If they play their cards right, they can find a game changer in year one.
The current roster could be overturned at any moment. The state of the backcourt is much clearer than the state of big guys. Howard could be trade bait on draft night, and the team may opt not to re-sign Paul Millsap and totally hit the rebuild button that probably should have been hit a season ago. The backcourt trio of Schroder, Hardaway Jr., and Taurean Prince could be around for a while, especially if the Hawks decide to open up their wallets and pay Hardaway Jr. this offseason. This all points towards the Hawks eyeing a big man with their first pick, which has been reported by multiple sources.
Of course, picking the best player available always comes into play in the NBA draft.
Travis Schlenk says at No. 19 the Hawks will pick … the best player available.
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) June 14, 2017
But not only do the Hawks have a greater need for a front court player, the back-end of the first-round is loaded with really talented big men, of which the Hawks could take their pick of the litter.
Here is a list of 4s and 5s that could be available/would be considered by Atlanta at 19:
- John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
- Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
- Justin Patton, C, Creighton
- Harry Giles, C, Duke
- Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
- T.J Leaf, PF, UCLA
- Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
- Anzejs Pasecniks, C, International
- Isaiah Hartenstein, C, International
Of the nine possible targets, the two international prospects look like they would be the biggest reaches. Neither are projected inside the top 20 in the majority of mock drafts, and while their skill sets may fit the Hawks schemes, there are two many unknowns surrounding them because of their lack of playing time versus high-level competition.
Of the remaining seven, five are entering the draft after their freshman season. The Hawks have shown a tendency to draft more experienced players with their recent draft picks, and while that certainly is not going to eliminate all of these players, Atlanta will be focusing on players with high basketball IQs that can pick up the complicated defensive and offensive schemes they run. Bam Adebayo, Ike Anigbogu, and Harry Giles were some of the most talented players coming out of high school last year, but were not exactly superstars in their freshman seasons respectively. They all showed they have a long way to go in the basketball learning process before they ever reach some of that untapped potential. The Hawks will not be selecting one of these guys with their first pick.
That leaves us with four possible front court selections: John Collins, Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton and T.J Leaf, all of which have worked out for the Hawks already. Collins has been linked to Atlanta since the early part of the process, and it makes sense considering the Hawks could possibly be without a starting caliber power forward on their roster heading into next season. Collins could step in immediatley and fill that void, as he was a true superstar at Wake Forrest, averaging 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. His 36.3 PER is absolutely remarkable, but odds are he is selected before the Hawks pick. He will not be the 19th pick and neither will Jarrett Allen, the center out of Texas. Allen has all the intangibles that could make him the first true center taken off the board. Atlanta would love the addition of his youth, length and athleticism to their front court, but like Collins, it is unlikely he makes it all the way to the 19th pick.
Now, only two front court players remain in Justin Patton and T.J Leaf. Both would fit well with the Hawks, as Patton is a true 7-footer that is still continuing to develop and could benefit from Dwight Howard’s veteran presence and the Hawks tremendous player development team. Leaf is a much sexier option. The one-and-done star out of UCLA averaged 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Bruins. He has the height and athleticism to play the power forward spot, but can also stretch the floor, which was showcased by the 46.6% mark he shot from three last year. Leaf even comes from a basketball family, as he was born in Israel while his dad was playing pro-ball overseas. With that family comes a great basketball understanding and tremendous work ethic.
It is hard to see the Hawks passing on a player like Leaf. He seems to check all the boxes for what the Hawks are looking for. Budenholzer salivates over big men that can shoot, but this one has great vision and athleticism to go with him. There are very few prospects at his age as polished as him, but the problem is someone ahead of the Hawks is seeing the same thing. Teams are not going to pass over Leaf eighteen times, leaving Patton as the most likely big man for the Hawks to chose.
Patton is a nice prospect, and one of the few pure 7-footers in this draft. However, he lacks the grand potential that many of the other prospects possess. There is a good chance he never even develops into a starter in the NBA. With all of the talent available in this draft, the Hawks have to do better with the 19th pick.
As teams in front of them continue to pluck the cream of the crop in the front court, at least one of the players projected to go in the top 15 will fall into the Hawks hands. That prospect this year is going to be the lesser known product out of Indiana, OG Anunoby, and Atlanta will not let him slip past them with the 19th pick.
Anunoby was a nobody coming out of high school, but after a impressive rookie campaign with the Hoosiers, he was on the NBA scouts’ radars his sophomore year. His minutes doubled as well as nearly every statistic. Anunoby averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists his sophomore season in just 25.1 minutes per game. Those numbers are not exactly eye-popping, as it’s Anunoby’s defensive presence that will make him a difference-maker in the NBA. He stands at 6’8″ with a 7’2″ wingspan allowing him to guard centers in the post and switch out onto guards on the perimeter. This gives him the versatility to play the 3, 4 and even the 5 at the NBA-level, which would be a true weapon for Budenholzer to utilize.
The questions around Anunoby’s offensive ability are legitimate. He has yet to really develop much of a one-on-one game, but if he can improve as a three-point shooter he will be just fine. He only shot 31.8% from three last season. Although, his shot does not look busted, and would probably benefit greatly from a trip to Hawks University. There is no reason to believe he cannot become a decent three-point shooter with the ability to cut and finish on the offensive side of the ball. If he can continue to develop on offense, he could be the Hawks version of Draymond Green, who the new Hawks GM, Travis Schlenk, had a hand in drafting while the Assistant GM for Golden State.
With the 19th pick, the Atlanta Hawks select OG Anunoby out of Indiana.