Somewhat surprisingly, the Hawks stood pat during the NBA draft. With the sixth pick, they took perhaps the best big-man in the draft, Onyeka Okongwu, and with one of the final selections in the draft, they took a chance on Skylar Mays, a 6’4″ shooting guard out of LSU. We’ll talk about Okongwu plenty leading up to the season, but for now, I want to focus on Mays, who could end up being a sneaky good rotational piece down the road.
Unfortunately, Mays’ senior campaign was cut short by the coronavirus because he was proving himself to be one of the top guards in the SEC and all of college basketball, for that matter. He averaged nearly 17 points a game to go along with 5.0 boards and 3.2 assists for the Fighting Tigers and was really their go-to man whenever LSU needed buckets late in the game.
There’s a ton to love about Mays’ game coming into the NBA, but before I discuss it, here’s what Travis Schlenk had to say about the Hawks second pick of the night.
“We had Skylar ranked a lot higher (than No. 50),” Schlenk said of Mays. “A four-year guy, an extremely smart basketball player, a very good body, a combo guard, a high basketball IQ, skilled player. We were excited when he was there because, like I said, we had him ranked much higher than that.”
As an LSU alumnus that watched Skylar Mays for all four years of his collegiate career, Schlenk’s brief breakdown is spot on.
Mays is a brilliant person off the court, which translates to the games, especially after four years in the SEC. He was often asked to play point guard, something he is very capable of doing and excels at making the right play, whether it is for himself or his teammates. Throughout his career at LSU, he only averaged 1.8 turnovers per game. Mays is also a helluva defender. He might be a little undersized for a shooting guard — as far as length is concerned — but his strength and quickness will make up for that at the next level. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that we see him get meaningful minutes with the second team as early as this season.
The biggest difference between Mays as a senior compared to his previous three seasons was his efficiency as a scorer. He shot nearly 50% from the field compared to 42.1% as a junior; he was also significantly better from behind the arc, making his threes at a 39.1 % clip. That’s even more remarkable when you watch the film. Mays takes plenty of tough shots, especially late in games, and consistently came through. His career 84.5% mark from the free-throw stripe is also indicative of his shooting capability at the next level.
I was a bit surprised the Hawks even kept their second-round pick. With all the youth they already have on their squad, I thought they might just sell the selection as they have in the past. However, Mays is clearly a player they liked enough to keep it, and I don’t imagine it will take very long for Hawks fans to figure out why.
Photo: Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire