ATLANTA – The Atlanta Hawks were one of the four teams in the Southeast Division to make the playoffs. Despite finishing with a 38-44 record, they were the eighth seed in the playoffs,where they faced off against the struggling Indiana Pacers and ended up losing in seven games, 4-3. Even though they lost in the first round of the playoffs and had a sub-.500 record, the Hawks really don’t have a bad team. They have great players like G Jeff Teague, F/C Al Horford, G/F Kyle Korver, and F Paul Millsap. Atlanta owns the 15th and 43rd overall picks in June’s draft, so let’s take a look with what they could possibly do with them.
The Atlanta Hawks’ main need is a small forward. They don’t have a true player at that position. Their starter is DeMarre Carroll, but it is likely that he’d be a much better player if he came off the bench next season, which means they’ll need another starter. Kyle Korver plays there some, but he is a natural shooting guard, so they want to keep him at the two-spot as much as possible. Even if a rookie comes off the bench in place of Carroll, they still need depth at the position.
Even though the Hawks’ main focus should be a small forward, it’s possible they won’t select one here. Rumor has it that they’re
going to attempt to grab Luol Deng in free agency, which would easily fill the need at the small forward spot. They Hawks could be looking at guys like UCLA SG Zach LaVine or LA Lafayette PG Elfrid Payton. Why, you may ask? I’ll tell you.
Zach LaVine is an explosive shooter that has huge potential. He is one of the Pac-12′s best prospects in this draft, and he could be a great fit for the Hawks. With LaVine, he could either be the starting shooting guard (with Korver moving to the small forward spot) or if Atlanta signs Deng, he could come off of the bench behind Korver at SG. Either way, it’d be a pretty nice selection for the Hawks. Unfortunately, it seems as if he’ll likely be taken before the Hawks pick at fifteen, but you never know.
Elfrid Payton is a talented point guard from LA Lafayette that can score the ball very efficiently, as he averaged 19.2 points-per-game last season with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Payton is a talented point
guard who can drive to the basket at-will, and who can steal the ball with ease. The only thing about the Hawks selecting him here is, he’d be a backup behind Jeff Teague. I’m not sure if Atlanta wants to draft a guy this early in a talent-soaked draft who’ll turn out to be an obvious second-stringer for possibly years to come. Since his jumpshot isn’t all that great from the perimeter, there’s almost no chance for the Hawks to move him to the two-spot, so he’d certainly be coming off of the bench behind Teague.
They could also look at small forwards like Creighton’s Doug McDermott, NC State’s TJ Warren, or Kentucky’s James Young. McDermott will likely be taken well before the Hawks get a chance to select. Warren may not have quite enough talent to be taken this high in the draft. Young is a fantastic jumpshooter, but he isn’t very efficient and lacks effectiveness on the defensive end, which hurts his draft stock and where he’ll be picked.
Could the Hawks trade their pick? It’s possible, but doubtful. They could try to move up into the top ten or so, but many teams ahead of them would be unwilling to trade their picks, so they’ll likely stay at number fifteen.
The Hawks’ second-round pick should be used to select a big man, just in case Paul Millsap or Al Horford go down with injuries, which they did at times last season.
Three guys they could select include Florida PF/C Patric Young, North Carolina PF James Michael McAdoo, and International C Nikola Jokic.
Patric Young is basically a monster. He is aggressive on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, he has a fantastic work
ethic, and he helped lead the Florida Gators to an SEC Championship, while also claiming the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and winning the SEC Defensive Player-of-the-Year Award, all in the 2013-14 season. He would be an ideal pick for the Hawks, since he seems to be an NBA-ready player that could come off the bench in place of Millsap.
James Michael McAdoo is a power forward from North Carolina, who can shoot the ball pretty well, but isn’t too aggressive. McAdoo can play defense at a pretty high level, and even though he’s strong, lacks the aggressiveness that an NBA power forward should have. His work ethic is also somewhat questionable. For Atlanta to really be confident in McAdoo, he’ll have to learn how to be tougher in the paint and learn how to work harder than he does right now.
Nikola Jokic is a center from Serbia who has amazing footwork in the post and can shoot the ball well. Although, Jokic, like many other international big men, needs to get stronger and become more explosive. If Jokic can do those things, I see no reason why Atlanta shouldn’t take a chance on him, especially if they need a possible replacement for Horford whenever he gets injured or needs a breather.
Could the Hawks trade this pick? Most definitely. They have expressed interest in moving up in the draft, as well as getting some role players in turn for guys like Al Horford and Lou Williams. If Atlanta plans on trading any pick, expect it to be this one.
Overall, Atlanta is in a pretty good situation. They have two mid-round picks, which could each turn out to be very important players. This draft may not produce starters for them, but it could definitely assist them in strengthening their bench, a very important thing to do in the NBA. (See: San Antonio Spurs)
~Victor Hensley (@Frezeal33)