With the Hawks season now officially over, we know they have the fourth-best odds of landing the #1 overall pick in the lottery at 12.5%. They also have a 48.1% chance at selecting in the top four spots and will not pick below eighth. While there’s a lot of discrepancy between NBA draft experts regarding how the top ten picks will shake out, almost everybody has Lamelo Ball going in the first three picks, looking to become the second Ball brother to do so (Lonzo went #2 overall to the Lakers in 2017). This is our first installment of this year’s Atlanta Hawks NBA draft profiles, and we will continue to do them up until the NBA Draft, providing you with a better outlook of how each prospect fits into the Hawks young core.
Many Atlanta fans are quick to write off drafting Lamelo Ball because of his fit next to their superstar point guard, Trae Young, and it is an understandable concern. Both are typically ball-dominant point guards, but they don’t have to have the ball in their hands to make an impact because of their ability to play off the ball. They aren’t the most efficient shooters but can make it from anywhere once they walk into the arena, and they both are exquisite ball-handlers and passers with either hand. However, when pairing these two, the questions lie on the defensive side.
Young is an undersized point guard, and while he averaged 29 points and 9 assists last season, he was regarded as one of the worst defenders in The Association. Ball catches some of the same flack on defense; however, it isn’t because he doesn’t have the potential to be an above-average defender. At 6’6″, Ball has the size to play shooting guard, even though he’s a natural point, and when he puts his mind to it, he’s shown the ability to defend at a high-level. Ball’s going to have to put some weight on regardless at the next level, but he has far more upside on the defensive end than Young ever has.
Travis Schlenk has already made it well-known that the Hawks aren’t going to focus on drafting for need. They aren’t anywhere close to that stage yet, considering they’ve won a combined 49 games over the last two seasons. Wherever they select, they will take the best player available, and that very well could be Lamelo Ball.
Ball has instincts that you can’t teach, and he will develop into an above-average three-point shooter in the NBA. The way the NBA is trending towards positionless basketball, I don’t see why a backcourt duo of Young and Ball couldn’t thrive. We’ve seen two of the most ball-dominant players in NBA history — Russell Westbrook and James Harden — play well all season, and they currently have the fourth-best odds to take home this year’s NBA title. Not to mention, the Hawks don’t have a reliable backup point guard. Adding Ball also fills that need.
I understand why Hawks fans might not think Lamelo Ball can fit with Young. However, there’s a real chance that he is the best player available, and with the way the NBA is trending towards small lineups with no positions, I don’t see Travis Schlenk hesitating to take him. Maybe it would work; perhaps it wouldn’t, but it would be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.