The Hawks are at a crossroads, they have played like a very average team this season, but they have a win-now coach in the form of Quin Snyder and a superstar in Trae Young. They’ve shipped off a decent amount of picks in exchange for Dejounte Murray. Still, they have their first-round pick this year. The Hawks have some weird needs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded their pick, but for now, let’s see what they could do in the draft.
Additionally, I’ll have the Hawks “buying” two second round draft picks. Right now, they are projected to have a second-round pick from the Pelicans, but barely. It’s very possible they go into the draft without a second round selection. I doubt they use this strategy, but it’s a mock draft and I want to talk about some options.
Round 1, Pick 16 (Projected): G Cason Wallace — Kentucky
I pondered a few players here; I even considered making it three years in a row with a Duke Blue Devil in the first round, taking Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski, and Dereck Lively II. GG Jackson was also in play too with his draft stock being all over the place. However, I landed with Cason Wallace, who has drawn comparisons to Jrue Holiday.
Taking a Kentucky guard in the draft has worked out well for a lot of teams; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray, Tyrese Maxey, De’Aaron Fox, Shaeden Sharpe, and Devin Booker are some names that come to mind. Wallace saw his minutes increase with injuries to Sahvir Wheeler, and he took advantage. Wallace is a fiesty defender that uses his top-tier athleticism to generate a ton of steals. He shot 34% from 3, and he should be able to be a secondary scorer for the Hawks while rotating with Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. At worse, he can be a quality defender off of the bench. Aaron Holiday is on an expiring deal, so Wallace would slide right in. I’ve been advocating for the Hawks to grab defensive-minded players in the draft, so hopefully, they can take advantage with Wallace at pick 16 if he’s available.
Round 2, Pick 35 (Projected Buy): G Jaylen Clark — UCLA
I’d like to buy low on Clark here. He is one of the best on-ball defenders in all of college basketball, and like Herb Jones, who I wanted two years ago, he could give the Hawks some serious spunk on the defensive end. He’s a candidate to return to school, but Clark averages over 2.5 steals per game and was tasked with locking up some of the best scorers in college basketball. Throw in the fact that he shot 41.8% from three, and I love the value you can get here with Clark. He should be able to fit into Atlanta’s bench rotation immediately and create an imposing defensive duo alongside Wallace when Trae Young and Dejounte Murray rest or rotate.
Round 2, Pick 50 (Projected Buy): F Emoni Bates — Eastern Michigan
I’m borrowing this pick from NBADraftNet. Bates has had an interesting collegiate career, but he proved he can be a primary scorer that can fill up the stat sheet after transferring to Eastern Michigan. There’s a chance he stays in college for another year to rebuild what used to be a sky-high draft stock, but the Hawks would be wise to bet on his upside in the second round. He’s extremely skilled as a scorer for a 6’9 forward, and he gives this draft class the scoring we’ve been sacrificing for defense. Bates averaged almost 20 points per game and shot over 40% from 3, and NBADraftNet’s comparison for him is Reggie Miller. This is likely before his transfer, and I don’t expect him to be Reggie Miller, but he could give the Hawks some quality buckets off of the bench alongside two of the better defenders in this entire class. These three should give the Hawks some high-quality bench pieces alongside AJ Griffin and Onyeka Okongwu, giving Atlanta a sneak-good young group to support their starting five.
Photographer: Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire
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