For the past two seasons, Travis Schlenk has manipulated the draft board. He acquired an extra first while trading down in 2018 and traded up in 2019. There’s no telling what he has in mind, but I trust his judgment. Here’s a situation we could see come draft day.
Hawks Trade: Pick 6, Pick 50, & Future 2nd round pick.
Knicks Trade: Pick 8, Pick 38, Future 1st Round Pick (Lottery Protected), & Kevin Knox
This trade was difficult to gauge. The Knicks may still believe in Knox, but seeing that his minutes were cut from 29 to 18 last season, they could already be giving up on their 2018 9th overall pick. There’s a lot of value coming back to Atlanta, but when was the last time the Knicks weren’t in the lottery? After some time, the pick can convey, and considering Dallas paid the eventual 10th overall pick to trade up two spots with Atlanta, this seems in bounds for me.
I still see *some* value in Knox. He shoots around 33% from three, but his most significant issue is — you guessed it… his defense. He ranks as one of the worst defenders in the NBA and still hasn’t shown any type of scoring prowess so far. Consider him a flier; maybe something clicks for him outside of The Garden. I pondered Frank Ntilikina here, but that idea has been beaten to death, and I like the guard I’ll be selecting with the 2nd rounder anyways.
The future 1st will be difficult to acquire next season, but the protection will lower as time passes. I have the Hawks dumping another future 2nd rounder, as they have done consistently under Travis Schlenk. This seems pretty tame in terms of trading up, and it gives Atlanta some assets while picking up a player the Hawks have rumored interest in.
Pick 8 (From New York): G Devin Vassell, Florida State
The Suwanee native should be Atlanta’s top target since they didn’t land a top-five selection in the lottery. Vassell is cut from the same cloth as De’Andre Hunter, but I like Vassell just a little more than Hunter coming out of school. Both guys are long 3-and-D wings with smooth 3-point shots.
Vassell’s jump in year two at Florida State was crazy impressive, and Travis Schlenk would be taking a considerable gamble moving back. Like Hunter, Vassell is more of a refined product. His floor is very high, but he’s less close to being maxed out as a prospect than Hunter was.
Vassell posted a 49% FG percentage while canning 42% of his 3s last season. His PPG is slightly lower than Hunter’s at Virginia, but his APG and RPG are almost identical. The shooting percentages are scary close too.
De’Andre Hunter didn’t set the NBA on fire as a rookie, and he was even overshadowed by Cam Reddish, who was taken six picks later. While I still have faith in Hunter, you can never have enough 3-and-D wings. We’ve seen players progress significantly under Lloyd Pierce in year two, so I think Hunter and Reddish both make a jump.
Back to Vassell. This kid can jump out of the gym. He is crazy athletic and an explosive finisher, something that he can showcase with Trae Young feeding him dimes. Vassell can score at all three levels, and for a guy with a 7-foot wingspan at 6’6″ — he’s an excellent shooter.
Vassell will have to put on some weight at the NBA level, but a 6’6″, 200-pound guard averaging over 5 RPG shows he possesses some toughness. His potential was on full display against Virginia Tech last season when he erupted for 27, 3, and 3, knocking down all seven of his threes and eight of his ten shots from the field. If he starts shooting up draft boards, forget trading back. As much as I love Deni Avdija’s potential, this should be Atlanta’s guy.
Pick 38 (From New York): G Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Nothing’s changed here from my first mock. Cassius Winston still makes way too much sense. The Hawks need a secondary ball-handler in the worst type of way, and this trade up in the 2nd round could propel Atlanta into the territory for a guy with more potential like Tre Jones or Isaiah Stewart. Still, I’m more interested in a finished product. From my chalk mock draft 1.0:
Winston shot 43% from three in his senior season and was a big part of a Spartan team that looked primed to make a run at the championship. He averaged 19 & 6 and was a very efficient shooter for Tom Izzo. He also set the career Big 10 record for assists – even with a shortened season.
Winston isn’t going to overwhelm scouts with his physical gifts, but after four years of good basketball under Tom Izzo, his leadership and basketball IQ will be tough to rival in this draft class. At 22 years old, he’s actually older than Trae Young, so I believe in his ability to immediately bolster the 2nd unit. A bench featuring a rotation of Goodwin & Winston at point guard; a mix of Kevin Huerter, Kevin Knox, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, & Devin Vassell on the wing, with DeWayne Dedmon & Bruno Fernando anchoring the paint is a massive improvement over what the Hawks were showing in 2020.
This mock gives Atlanta a nice mix of everything. They pick up a top player in the draft that comes with a combination of polish & potential, add a guy who is as close to a sure thing as you can acquire in the 2nd round, and pick up a lottery ticket in Kevin Knox.
Photo: Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire