The NBA Draft is under a month away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day, The Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. Draftmas continues today with the 2018 Atlanta Hawks NBA draft profile.
Entering the 2017 season, the Atlanta Hawks had one goal: accumulate as many ping pong balls as possible. As the NBA is currently constructed, tanking is the best way to create sustained success.
If this strategy was ever in doubt, it certainly was not after the Hawks’ first 20 games. In those first 20 games, the Hawks went 4-16, with two of those wins coming over the Mavericks and Kings, who were also tanking. As a result, the Hawks finished with a 24-58 record, giving them the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
While it might seem hopeless, there is light at the end of the tunnel for this franchise. In 2013, they were able to find a capable starting point guard at the 17th overall pick in Dennis Schroder. While he is not on a trajectory to be one of the league’s best point guards, he is a key piece to the future of this team’s success.
To the Hawks’ credit, they also hit on two other players in this range of the draft in Kelly Oubre, the 15th overall pick in 2015, and John Collins, the 19th overall pick in 2017. Collins was just named to the All-Rookie second team earlier this week and fits the mold of what the current NBA power forward is: long, athletic and shoots above 30 percent from the 3-point line.
However, they have plenty of room to improve regardless of which players they pick in this year’s draft. The Hawks finished this season 25th in points per game and 23rd in opponent points per game. On the other hand, the Hawks were 10th in pace.
It is important to keep in mind that the hiring of Lloyd Pierce as the head coach could render all of these statistics irrelevant. This will be Pierce’s first stint as a head coach in the NBA. He might be just what the doctor ordered given his experience with the 76ers’ process. His focus on defense also can help build a winning foundation.
Picks and Needs
The 2018 Atlanta Hawks have four picks in this year’s draft.
First round: No. 3, No. 19, No. 30
Second round: No. 33
Like most NBA teams, the Atlanta Hawks lack a player with superstar potential. They have youth all over this roster with good, but not great potential. However, none of the current players have the upside to carry a team to contender status in the Eastern Conference. Given that fact, the Hawks need to pick the player available with the highest upside. They already have a promising group of young players, so to use some baseball terminology, it is time to change their launch angle, elevate the ball and hit it out of the park.
Targets and thoughts
Pick No. 3: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri
I’m respecting the fact that our writer, Josh Burris, has the Kings taking Marvin Bagley at the second pick. If that is how the draft plays out, Michael Porter Jr. is the player with the most upside left. However, if the Hawks can acquire a current NBA player in a deal that allows them to trade down, that would be a viable option as well.
Porter is an unusual talent and would be in the discussion for this pick if he did not have the back injury. Yes, I know that is a big if, but it is true.
As a prospect, Porter is a 6-foot-10 forward who is an above average shooter from almost everywhere on the floor. Not to mention, he has competent enough ball-handling skills to be a secondary offense initiator as a change of pace, or if Schroder needs a break.
While there are many pros in Porter’s game, there are some legitimate questions. For one, a back injury can have career-altering effects, especially on a player so young and developing physically. He seems to be strong enough mentally to overcome such an injury, but the Hawks will have to trust their medical staff if Porter is picked here. There are also questions about his physicality and decision making when it comes to shot selection.
Overall, this pick makes sense for the Hawks because it gives them a player in the Eastern Conference that teams do not have an answer for. You have to compete with players that present unique matchup problems like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and for now, LeBron James. Michael Porter Jr. would give the 2018 Atlanta Hawks a similar problem to their opponents because of his size, skill and athletic ability at small forward.
Pick No. 19: Bruce Brown Jr., SG, Miami
The Hawks have a history of finding productive players at this spot in the draft. So whoever they pick at this spot, they should get the benefit of the doubt. In this instance, Bruce Brown Jr. would be a good fit for the Hawks.
Lloyd Pierce has already mentioned his focus is going to be on defense. Brown is already a high-level defensive player and could be turned into a 3-and-D guy. Yes, his shooting suffered in his sophomore season, but he has the tools and shooting technique to grow into that role.
Pick No. 30*: Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky
Keep in mind that this selection could be the 28th or 29th pick depending on how the playoffs finish. While they are at the 30th spot, the Hawks could take another player at the shooting guard position. This pick is more of a product of the other players available than the talent of Diallo. He has the potential to be an injection of offense off the bench if he can become more consistent with his shot.
Pick No. 33*: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Bruno Fernando fits into the mold of Pierce’s defensive philosophy. Fernando is an exceptional above-the-rim player and has good second-jump ability. For those who do not know, that means the ability to jump and then immediately jump again upon hitting the ground. That kind of reaction and explosion is something that players do or do not have. Unfortunately, Fernando would require a ton of development on his offensive arsenal if he were to ever become a starter.
Featured image from logomaker.com
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