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2012 NBA Draft: Will the Hawks Reach for Will Barton?

Will Barton’s draft stock has been on the rise as of late, and he might just have played his way safely into the first round. Once thought to be a solid second round project, Barton’s impressive workouts have caught the eyes of several scouts, prompting a leap in mock drafts across the internet.

The wiry Barton, who stands at 6’6″, averaged 18.0 points per game last year for the Memphis Tigers on 51% shooting. His strength and speed are his biggest weaknesses, but he has a 6’10” wingspan and a 35-inch vertical leap. Thanks to his incredibly diverse skill set, scouts have looked past his inability to complete a single bench press at the NBA Draft Combine (for what it’s worth, Kevin Durant couldn’t do one either).

Barton is a fantastic attacker and an adroit finisher, but his jump shot can be a little streaky. His three-point percentage increased by 8% in his sophomore year at Memphis (27% freshman year to 35% sophomore year), so clearly he’s made strides, but there is still work to be done, especially considering a college 3-pointer is nothing but a mid-range jump shot in the NBA.

If he were selected by the Hawks, his ability to penetrate and create his own shot would be a welcomed addition to a team in desperate need of bench scoring, especially with the veteran mass exodus from the bench thanks to free agency this summer (and also, awful management with the rent-a-bench strategy). However, his ability to get into the lane isn’t his only NBA-translatable strength. He averaged 8 rebounds per game last year at Memphis, and rebounding is typically a skill that caries over from college to the NBA.

Still, there are huge question marks, such as whether he’s skilled enough to offset his skinny frame or whether his slow lateral quickness will haunt him defensively. He’s a relatively decent gamble for a mid-late first round pick, but one that could pay immediate and future dividends.

Now clearly, the Hawks have other options that they’ll consider, but with Barton’s rising draft stock there’s no reason to think that he won’t be considered by the front office, especially after his workout in Philips Arena yesterday (Wednesday).

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated pegs Barton to the Hawks in his latest mock draft, and while it may be a bit of a stretch, if the Hawks feel that he’s a player who can come and provide instant bench relief, then I’d have no qualms with this selection. Would he be my first choice with the 23rd pick in the draft? No, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

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