Pretty tough to do two picks for a team that is looking to rebuild…
…just kidding. This may be the easiest draft thoughts on a team yet. Why? Well, it is really easy to decide what to do in a draft when your organization isn’t disorganized and knows the direction it wants to go in. Sure, they f*cked up by trading ‘Cool Hand’ Luka for ‘Ice’ Trae and (what turned out to be) the 10th pick. However, they can slightly redeem themselves by either flipping these two picks for something higher up, OR knocking the selections at these spots out of the park.
The Hawks should be listening earnestly to anything that is surrounding AD trades. Not with the goal of trading for AD themselves, but for maybe trying to jump in on the loser of that trade. If the Pels decide not to try and run Jrue, Zion, and AD in the regular season, and to trade AD to the highest bidder, then it would be extremely difficult for a team like the Knicks or Lakers to compete with the Celtics offer. While the preemptive thought is that the Knicks want to draft RJ Barrett is they cannot score AD, that may not be the best thing for them. Another wing, isolation shooter that can’t guard isn’t something the Knicks need to add to the hypothetical Kyrie-KD signing. What they really need is knockdown 3-and-D shooter. Same can be said for the Lakers, who would find themselves in the same boat if snubbed by the Pels.
Enter Kevin Huerter.
The going-on-sophomore shooting guard posted a very nice 41.9%/38.5% shooting splits for the Hawks this year, and can play passable defense. He could be a nice addition to either the Knicks or Lakers since he won’t get in the way of the stars, and he can knockdown open looks in the corner. I’d find it tough, if I was either of those teams, to turn down a 3-and-D guy and two first rounders. With either the 3rd or 4th pick, the Hawks could easily then draft who they want, which I believe should be someone like DeAndre Hunter, Jarrett Culver, or Coby White. All three play great defense, can move with/without the ball, can knockdown shots, and can be inserted day one into the starting lineup.
This is not even mentioning how teams are sure to be salivating over Kent Bazemore (good player with expiring copntract), Miles Plumlee (expiring contract), DeAndre’ Bembry (decent player, small money, restricted rights, and expiring contract), and Taurean Prince (good player, small money, restricted rights, and expiring contract) as well this draft and free agency process.
However, maybe every team in the NBA just gets struck dumb. I mean, it’s happened before (why’d you have to join the Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins). With that in mind, it would be very hard for them to move up. That whole outcome relies on the Knicks and Lakers wanting to not snag one of those three or N.A.W. (New Andrew Wiggins, a.k.a. RJ Barrett). The Cavs, Suns, and Chicago will not budge for a trade, especially since they need those kinds of players on their teams as well. So, unfortunately, that may be a pipe dream to say the least. However, it’s not like they are completely devoid of all hope here. If the Hawks kept the 8th and 10th picks, they can and will be stacked coming out of this draft. Right now, the players that may be available come their time to select include SG Jarrett Culver (HIGHLY UNLIKELY), SF Cam Reddish, C Jaxson Hayes, PF Rui Hachimura, SG/SF Nassir Little, SF/PF Sekou Doumbouya (from France), SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SF Keldon Johnson, and C Goga Bitadze (from the Republic of Georgia, not the University of Georgia). Yes, slightly a long list, but that is because we are dealing with two picks here, not one. So, let’s break this down a little bit for what they should do…
If Jarrett Culver is there with the 8th pick, then they need to jump on him like two dads at a cookout seeing the last beer in the cooler. The Hawks also need to avoid undersized players that can’t handle the ball like the plague, eliminating players like Rui Hachimura or Keldon Johnson. In fact, let’s just broaden that to undersized players in general, so we will remove Nassir Little as well. They would do well to avoid players that infringe on players they already have on their roster that are a part of their long-term plan, which may or may not include Jaxson Hayes and Goga Bitadze (depending on if they view John Collins as a center going forward or not). So, from the original list of 9 players, we are down to 4 that I view as worth their selection. However, I would be remiss if I did not include Goga in this list, since I do believe he can exist in the Hawks system with John Collins. Therefore, we are down to only 5 players that they should be considering.
I do believe that Jarrett Culver, if available, should be taken. However, I do not think he will be available. He is slowly but surely climbing up draft boards, and I can easily see him work his way back into top 3-5 pick range. For now, he is on the outside looking in, especially considering the Bulls have no idea what they are doing and the Suns want a point guard. So, of the four likely prospects of Cam, Sekou, Nickeil, and Goga, they should consider what they already have on the team. Cam and/or Sekou would pair nicely with the young backcourt duo of Trae and Huerter; it would help round out a starting lineup of Trae, Huerter, Cam, Sekou, and Collins. However, Goga from the same school of big men that the best center in the league, Nikola Jokic, hails from. As it stands right now, he is regarded as a better defensive version of Jokic. Talk about enticing! If Goga bounces up their boards like he has bounced up mine, then it isn’t outside the realm of possibilities to see a Trae, Huerter, Cam/Sekou, Collins, and Goga lineup get rolled out. Both sound enticing to me, and I have a tough time trying to choose which two out of the three will be picked.
As you may have noticed, Nickeil and Hayes haven’t been mentioned. I don’t see Nickeil as a fixture for this team unless they decide to move Huerter from being a shooting guard to a small forward. While I do think a Trae-Nickeil-Huerter would be tantalizing on the offensive end, I don’t find it likely that the Hawks would go for this. Nickeil is a good defender, yes, but not good enough to cover the deficiencies of Trae and Huerter. On the other hand, Hayes, despite having a lot of buzz, I don’t see working out long term as a prospect. Rim-running centers who can’t space the floor don’t seem to work well in the modern NBA, and he’d have a tough time fitting next to Collins as well. I will be doing a piece with @soft7diddy going into all of the prospects in-depth, so keep an eye out for that. However, I don’t see the Hawks breaking up the young trio of Trae, Huerter, and Collins to snag one of those two guys, so I have to nix them from contention here.
If I was the Hawks, I would go Cam at 8 and Goga at 10. The Wizards are hounding for a center at the 9th spot, but they will probably go for the more hyped-up Hayes over Goga with the 9th. Cam, while being extremely talented, is still too much of a beta on the court for me to endorse this high up. The man was considered a top 3 pick, and played himself out of that status to rest in this range. He is completely comfortable not having the ball, and his defense is not stellar enough for me to consider it. However, there are questions about whether or not Sekou can shoot from range at all. Sekou also is more of a power forward in terms of his offensive skill set, and he isn’t a natural basketball player. A frontcourt of Sekou, Collins, and Goga on the court will essentially be a power forward, a power forward/center, and a center in the frontcourt. It would be much better to have Cam Reddish, since he will be able to space the floor more for them. He is still a good enough defender where he will be more than able to cover for some of the liabilities Trae Young and Huerter have on the defensive end of the court. It’ll also be great to have another skilled passer in Goga being able to work the ball around the court. The two picks are being made because the Hawks are still in rebuild mode, and it is okay to have prospects you can develop. Cam and Goga are both that, and they would fit nicely around what the Hawks are beginning to develop.