Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultrie (23) blocks the shot of South Carolina forward R.J. Slawson (33) in the first half at Colonial-Life Arena. (Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE)

Examining Hawks' Draft Options

Days after I endorsed Chad Ford saying the Hawks should select Tony Wroten (insider) with whatever pick they get, Jeff Teague strung together some of his best performances of the season, making me look like a fool. I’m completely fine with that, too, it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I still believe to my core that Wroten has one of the highest ceilings in this draft, but if we begin to get consistent performances like this from Teague, well then we should be looking in a direction away from Wroten.

Obviously I don’t want to overreact from a few nice games from Teague, but he’s been on and off all season, and there’s still plenty of hope that he’ll be a consistent playmaker in the post season and next season as well.

So, with that in mind, it’s time for me to look at this draft through broader lens. I’ll tell you this: I like what I see. I know that at the beginning of the season this was supposed to be a draft for the ages, but as the season progressed, that sentiment regressed. However, the draft is still loaded with talent, and guys being picked all the way into the twenties have super star potential. It’s just a matter of making the right call, because truthfully, not all of these guys are going to pan out how we want them too.

The Hawks are weak in two areas and should be looking to address both through the draft. Our bench scoring is atrocious. Some nights it’s Willie Green, some nights it’s Jannero Pargo, now occasionally it’s Marvin Williams, but most nights… it’s no one. Injuries have plagued this team all season, but management’s inability to construct a bench of anything other than veteran-minimum players has us looking up our own rears for even the slightest bit of help from the second unit on most nights. So, hopefully we’d be able to get an explosive back court scorer who could come in and get to the cup right away. We need an instant attacker, a la Jamal Crawford. Secondly, our center rotation has to be one of the worst in the league with Horford out. I love everything about Zaza, but in no way, shape, or form should he be the primary center on a playoff, or heaven forbid, contending team. Moreover, there’s no way his backup should be selected from Ivan Johnson, Vlad-Rad, or Jason Collins. We’ve relied on Josh Smith and Zaza very heavily ever since Horford went down, but even with him returning, another center would pay huge dividends.

With those two needs in mind (bench scoring and center), let’s take a look at who’s available with our given pick:

Guys we should hope and pray drop to us:

  • Terrence Ross (So. Washington)
  • Terrence Jones (So. Kentucky)
  • Arnett Moultrie (Jr. Mississippi St)
  • Jeremy Lamb (So. Connecticut)
  • Austin Rivers (Fr. Duke)
  • John Henson (Jr. UNC)

Now, of the people from this group, the least likely candidates to drop appear to be Kentucky’s Jones, Duke’s Rivers, and Connecticut’s Lamb. However, there’s a chance that one of them just might fall through the cracks. The other guys have a more realistic shot at falling to us, wherever we land. John Henson is a bit of stretch as it seems he’ll go to the Rockets in the mid-teens, but Arnett Moultrie, the 6’11 center from Mississippi State, has huge upside. He averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds in the hyper-competitive SEC, and is said to have a good motor and solid athleticism. He’s the type of guy I would love to have on this team. Ross is Wroten’s counterpart from Washington, and he’s a super-athletic, 6’6″ shooting guard who can stroke it from deep. That’s always welcomed, and if he tightens up his handle, he’s one of the guys that we could keep hearing about over the next 10 years.

More Realistic Targets:

  • Meyers Leonard (So. Illinois)
  • Dion Waiters (So. Syracuse)
  • Fab Melo (So. Syracuse)
  • Tony Wroten (Fr. Washington)

Now, I know I gushed over Wroten just a few days ago, but he might just be last on the priority list of these candidates. Leonard is a shot blocking machine with an excellent vertical leap, he’s also 7-1. He’s a huge project offensively, but he could come in an play an Omer Asik (Chicago Bulls) like role right away. Melo is a less athletic version of Leonard, but one who does more pounding in the paint. He’s more receptive to contact than Leonard as he feeds off physicality, and his offensive game is much more refined. His rebounding numbers weren’t stellar at Syracuse, but a lot of that has to be attributed to Jim Boeheim’s legendary 2-3 zone, which makes rebounding very difficult as it’s hard to find a man to box-out. Syracuse proved that theory this year as they were often out-rebounded by smaller and inferior opponents. Finally there’s Waiters, who Ford has us selecting in his Mock Draft 3.0 (insider) at pick 23. If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll be picking at number 21 as the Celtics and Grizzlies are likely to leap frog us. Regardless, Waiters has to be given a look here. He’s an explosive scorer who averaged about 13 points in 24 minutes of action a night at the ‘Cuse. Ford seems to buy into his scoring ability particularly well, and thinks it will translate rather nicely in the NBA, having this to say about pegging him a Hawk:

Analysis: The Hawks traded away Jamal Crawford and lost that instant spark off the bench. Enter Waiters. He’s a pure scorer who always plays in attack mode. He could easily come in and average 15 points per game.

If he’s the type of guy who comes in and scores 15 points a game– a more athletic and efficient MarShon Brooks, I’ll take it. He’s got tremendous upside as a scorer, and his defense was night-and-day when comparing his freshman and sophomore years. He improved leaps and bounds in that area, smothering opponents and playing the passing lanes like a possessed man. Him and Teague in the same backcourt would be one of the quickest in the league, and would arguably produce more steals than any other team in the NBA. Of course, he’d come off the bench and give Joe some rest if LD is smart enough to play him.

For the record, I’m in favor of keeping our 20-something-th pick and trading a quality player to grab a mid-late lottery pick. I do think it’s time to start looking towards the future, and my honest prediction is that a decision will be made this summer as to who the Hawks are entrusting their future: Josh Smith or Al Horford. I firmly believe one will be traded this off-season, not because I want it to happen, but because I think this team knows that changes need to be made if we want to truly contend, and part of that is getting younger talent that will make us competitive even when Joe runs out of gas. If we can get a top 10-ish pick, along with a solid role player for either Smith or Hordord, and snag Perry Jones, Beal, Rivers, or Zeller, that would be huge to pair with our later selection. We’d have begun to establish a new young core for the future, while somewhat keeping intact our present one.

Part of me hopes we keep both Horford and Smith, but part of me doesn’t at the same time. We’ll need to start heading in a new direction soon and this off-season may be that time. Although, with the ASG in control, no one knows what’s going to happen, but it’ll probably be nothing but a bunch of new vet-minimum guys to pair with the same core.

Anyway, Moultrie, Waiters, Melo, and Wroten are my favorite potential picks for out slotted selection, and I hope we make the right decision and don’t sell this pick for some cash to keep us under the luxury tax threshold. With Hinrich likely leaving after this season via free agency, we should have a bit of cap space to throw some cash at a rookie.

While it’s fun to speculate about what may happen to the core this offseason and what may become of the draft, from here on out, I’m going to try and limit chatter on this subject. I think it’s a riveting matter, and clearly I’m interested in several different scenarios, but the most important thing going on now is the end of the regular season. We’re in line for a good playoff matchup with likely either Boston or Indiana. So while it may be enticing to look ahead, don’t forget to embrace this current Hawks team for all their grittiness and perplexing success.

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Tags: Al Horford Arnett Moultrie Austin Rivers Bradley Beal Dion Waiters Fab Melo Ivan Johnson Jamal Crawford Jannero Pargo Jason Collins Jeff Teague Jeremy Lamb Joe Johnson John Henson Josh Smith Larry Drew Marshon Brooks Marvin Williams Meyers Leonard Omer Asik Terrence Jones Terrence Ross Tony Wroten Tyler Zeller Vladimir Radmanovic Willie Green Zaza Pachulia

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