With the NBA Draft less than a month away and the Hawks having been knocked out of the playoffs for about a month, it’s time to look at Atlanta’s options with the 23rd pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
The Hawks have two pretty big needs right now: A useful big man to spell Al Horford some minutes at center and a scorer off the bench. That’s of course assuming the team remains as is and management isn’t looking for a shakeup. Obviously, it’s difficult to gauge management’s priorities right now as looming questions about Rick Sund and a contract extension remain. However, if the Hawks don’t plan on making serious changes, they should be looking for someone who can come in immediately and do some good things off the bench. While this draft isn’t as hyped as it once was, picks 10-25 are still filled with some great potential role players and halfway stars. At the 23rd the pick, the Hawks can hope for one of these three players to have a draft day slide and fall into their laps: Tony Wroten, Fab Melo, or Arnett Moultrie.
Wroten is an ultra-athletic point guard who projects as a combo guard in the NBA. He’s 6’5″ and has incredible court vision, but he dominates the ball too much and has an absolutely terrible jump shot. He’s a horrendous free throw shooter, as well. So clearly, there’s reason for him to dip in the draft, but doesn’t this sound a lot like Rondo coming out of Kentucky? Can’t shoot, has a little bit of an ego, long, athletic, and has fantastic vision. It’s virtually the same scouting report. He’s lightning quick and can get into the lane. He seems like a guy built for the NBA game. He easily has the potential to drop 15 points and 10 assists per game down the line, so long as he accepts his strengths and weaknesses, much like Rondo has done. However, if any coach can pick up the pieces of his broken jumpshot, then he could become a perennial all-star. There is clear potential here for Wroten, he’ll just have to harness it. While it may cause Jeff Teague to feel some pressure and insecurity, most Hawks fans would be thrilled with this pick.
Then there’s Fab Melo, and depending on who you ask, he’ll be either pretty good, decent, or terrible. I don’t see him becoming a pretty good NBA player, but I also don’t see him being terrible. The knocks on the 7-footer out of Syracuse is that he’s overweight, slow, and has a weak offensive game. Others question his rebounding abilities as well. Melo is a space eater on defense and will block shots no matter where he goes, and while some may point out that Hasheem Thabeet was pegged the same way, Melo is much less awkward with the ball and has better footwork than Thabeet could ever dream of. According to scouts, he’s developed a nice little spot-up 18-foot jumper which he showed glimpses of his sophomore year at Cuse, and he’s in the best shape of his life. He was never able to showcase his rebounding abilities in Boeheim’s heralded Syracuse 2-3 zone (it’s hard to have a consistent rebounder in a zone because you can’t really box out a person, just an area, which is why Cuse was one of the worst rebounding teams in the country last season), but his added strength and large frame seem to suggest he could hold his own. His defensive anticipation, which was clearly shown through his ability to block shots at a remarkable clip, also supports that conclusion. Melo has the potential to come in and get 15 minutes a game in his rookie season. If he rebounds decently and can knock down some open midrange jumpers, there’s no reason for him to have a poor career. If he ever learns some legitimate post moves, he could be a starter in the league.
Arnett Moultrie seems like a reach at the 23rd pick, but what’s not to like about the athletic big out of Mississippi State? He averaged 16 and 10 last year, showed some decent moves in the paint, and dominated defensively. This is definitely a guy that projects as a starting center down the road, so long as he continues to harness his immense athletic gifts and use them to his advantage. If he puts on some weight and strength, and maybe develops a go-to move down low, then he could be scary in a few years. The fact that he’ll likely be picked in the mid-to-late teens is indicative of how good this draft really is.
Other players that I wouldn’t mind the Hawks taking a look at with the 23rd pick are Jeffrey Taylor and John Jenkins out of Vanderbilt, Mo Harkless out of St. Johns, or Quincy Miller out of Baylor.
While options abound at the pick 23, there’s also a chance the Hawks will be drafting in the lottery. Josh Smith’s name has resurfaced in several trade rumors, including one with Pau Gasol (probably just speculation and unfounded babble, but it was brought up on ESPN), and there’s a pretty decent chance that he’ll be playing on a new team next season. Smith’s name has been exclusively brought up in potential trades with the Golden State Warriors, who own the rights to the 7th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. If the Hawks somehow traded their way into the top 10, who would be their options?
Well clearly with the 7th pick, you’re looking at guys like Perry Jones III, Jared Sullinger, Damian Lillard, and Jeremy Lamb or Dion Waiters. Based off the Hawks specific needs at the moment, all of those would be fine picks. However, to ameliorate the loss of Smith, I’d prefer Perry Jones, who projects as a 3 in the NBA and is apparently harnessing and realizing his true potential now that he’s no longer at Baylor. Jones is probably the only player in the draft who even has a chance of matching Anthony Davis’ pro production, but it would take a complete mental turn around based on his college performances. Regardless, a 6’11” small forward who is arguably the most athletic player in the draft and who has an incredibly varied skill set is an appetizing course on the menu. If the Hawks find themselves with the 7th pick, I’d take PJIII and never look back. They say he’s the kind of player that could make you famous or get you fired as a GM. Right now, I wouldn’t mind either one for Rick Sund if he stays on board. Also, it would show a great deal of faith in the player development department if we took on the project of turning Jones into the next Tracy McGrady.
However, the Hawks have other options with Smith. It’s possible they trade their way into the 5th, 4th, or even 2nd pick, although each of these scenarios is much less likely than the Golden State situation. If the Hawks traded Smith to the Kings for the 5th pick and some garbage contract, I assume they’d look at Andre Drummond, Brad Beal, or Harrison Barnes (clearly Beal if he’s available). If they traded Smith (and potentially the 23rd pick) to Cleveland for the 4th, it’s whichever one is available out of Thomas Robinson, Brad Beal, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Then lastly, there’s a sliver of a chance, but really none at all, but still kind of a tiny one, even though it’s nonexistent, that the Hawks trade Smith and the 23rd pick for Charlotte’s 2nd overall pick. Of course, Smith would have to commit long term to Charlotte as he’s entering the last year of his contract and the Bobcats would also have to like the deal as well. There are plenty of other enticing options out there for the Bobcats, and they may elect to keep the pick. With the 2nd pick, my guess is the Hawks would take Thomas Robinson, but again, Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist wouldn’t be out of the equation as well.
I’m not mentioning these rumors to psych everyone out, because realistically, it’s pretty unlikely that any of these trades go down. Smith will probably be in a Hawks uniform to start the season. It’s even less likely that the Hawks are able to trade for the 4th or 2nd pick, but there is a sliver of a chance, and if you’re a fan clinging to the idea of rebuilding, then I guess there’s something for you to hold on to. The Golden State and Sacramento trades are very possible and not all that far-fetched, but keep in mind this management has been reluctant to make any ground breaking moves ever since throwing the bank at Joe Johnson in the summer of 2010.
Regardless, the Hawks have some decisions to make in the upcoming NBA Draft. There are plenty of decent options at their original slot, but they may move up in hopes of landing a star. Anything is possible.
More draft coverage to come from SDS as we inch closer to the draft on June 28.