The NBA Draft is coming up, which means The Game Haus will be doing draft profiles for each NBA team. Each day, a new team will be analyzed for their past season, their team needs and targets. Today, the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluated.
The Hawks finished this season with 29 wins, which is an improvement over their 24 wins from the year before. That’s two not-so-hot years in a row for a team that has, although it doesn’t seem like it, been in the playoffs for most of the decade.
The word going forward for Atlanta is potential.
They’re coached by Lloyd Pierce. Pierce came as an assistant from Philadelphia where over the last few seasons the motto has been “trust the process”. Now with the reigns in ATL, he has a real shot at creating a “process” of his own.
The Atlanta Hawks this year were a favorite “league pass team” for many an NBA aficionado as their roster full of young, raw players made for one of the most entertaining teams to watch. Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter are all second or third-year players who will clearly have a long career in front of them. For Atlanta, that’s a great place to start.
In addition to them, Kent Bazemore, Miles Plumlee, Taurean Prince and Deandre Bembry will be returning as their contracts don’t expire until at least the end of next season. All four of those guys have spots as solid role players, if not in Atlanta, somewhere in the league.
This draft will be big for Atlanta as it is a chance for them to really hit on some guys and develop a team that, in a few years, is both stockpiled with talent and has a strong sense of identity.
Atlanta has five picks in this year’s draft.
First Round: Picks 8 and 10
Second Round: Picks 35, 41 and 44
Center – The biggest immediate need for Atlanta is to replace Dewayne Dedmon. He made about $14 million over the past two seasons in a Hawks uniform. Coming off a season of career highs it will be interesting to see whether or not the Hawks want to pay a little more for a center in a league where guards and forwards shine. If they can figure out what to do with Dedmon before the draft it will really help clear things up for them.
Defense – Some of it is youth and room to grow, some of it is just skill (or lack thereof), but Atlanta was one of the worst teams in the league last year on the defensive side of the ball. They had a 113.9 defensive rating and a -5.8 net rating which were 27th and 26th in the league. They also allowed 119.4 points per game last season which is dead last in the league by 2.5 points! The next closest team only allowed 116.9.
Fortitude – Atlanta is a decently balanced team already. But young players take time to adapt and they can get rattled. There are rare occasions where a 19-year-old can come into the league looking polished and poised (like Luke Doncic) but usually, it takes a few years to really iron out the kinks and begin to come into their own (like Devin Booker or DeAngelo Russell). If Atlanta can somehow trade some of these picks for a vet or two, don’t be surprised. But as far as the draft is concerned, juniors and seniors are the best bets for maturity and poise so nabbing a few of them could be a good move.
First Round, Pick No. 8: Cam Reddish, Forward, Duke
The eighth pick is actually sort of a tricky spot to be in for Atlanta. They would want, ideally, one of either Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver or Deandre Hunter. The other guys in this eighth pick range are either point guards or big men. With Trae Young running point there’s no need for that and with the 10th pick looming they’ll surely be able to snatch a big man there so slightly reaching for one now doesn’t make much sense.
If Reddish is still on the board here he’d be a perfect fit for Atlanta. He has the chops to be a big-time player and scorer in this league. But does he have the mindset? He went quiet during games at Duke. He has raw skills that not too many guys can boast about. Now that he’s not next to Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett does that free him up to work on his game a little more rather than pander to them? If he becomes consistent and develops good habits that help him take his game to the next level, fans could be looking at a future all-star.
First Round, Pick No. 10, Jaxson Hayes, Center, Texas
With Dedmon likely moving on the Hawks need a center to replace him. Taking Jaxson Hayes at 10 makes perfect sense for Atlanta. Hayes is only 19, but this whole team is young. Growing together could really work to their benefit in a couple of years.
Hayes is a spry, athletic, 6-foot-11 big man. He has great hands from his days as a receiver to catch lobs or tricky passes inside from Trae Young. He can be a rim runner AND rim protector who is used similarly to Clint Capela. His general athleticism makes him potentially an All-NBA caliber defender. He’s skinny, but he has a wide frame which means he can probably build muscle to become stronger in the post
The main question with Hayes are his practicable skills: post moves, defensive positioning, rebounding, pick and roll vs. pick and pop, etc. His inexperience is glaring. The intangibles are all there, now it’s just trimming the edges for Hayes.
Second Round, Pick No. 35: Carsen Edwards, Guard, Purdue
The Hawks are a young, exciting team and Carsen Edwards, after his performance in the NCAA tournament, is one of the most exciting players in this year’s draft. After burying 10 threes in the Elite 8 game against Virginia people have speculated about his draft stock.
Trae Young is the best player on the Hawks and Edwards has a similar-ish skill-set. He’s a bonafide three-point shooter and played point guard at Purdue. He can give this team a boost offensively AND help run the offense while Young is on the bench, although Young’s passing ability is on another level entirely. Playing him, Young and Huerter on the floor together would really spread out opposing defenses (although that could cause some defensive issues for Atlanta).
He’s 6-foot so he’s relatively short which means he could be a defensive liability. And while he can potentially run point he isn’t known as a playmaker. His scoring ability is the real draw. More versatile guys will still be available for their next two picks, so taking a specific skill guy here seems to be a good move for the Hawks.
Second Round, Pick No. 41: Isaiah Roby, Forward, Nebraska
Roby is simple here. He might be the best defender in this year’s draft. His size and strength make him able to guard across four, maybe even all five at times, positions. The Hawks were abysmal on defense last season and with all the different weapons they have on offense plugging Roby into line-ups as a switchable defender is a no-brainer option.
With comps to Andre Roberson though, his offensive skill set limits his ceiling. His size and athleticism mean that he could potentially grow as an under the rim finisher and his youth means he can still work on his perimeter shot along with the rest of his game. There’s hope for his offense to improve to a serviceable level, but for this Hawks team, he could make an impact pretty quickly as the squad’s best defender.
Second Round, Pick 44: Jaylen Hoard, Forward, Wake Forest
Hoard is a young, talented player with a strange skill set. His game is something like 70 percent Jerami Grant and 30 percent Dario Saric. He is a monster on fast breaks with his athleticism and decent passing/play-making skills for his size. He’s an incredible leaper and a deterrent for guys at the rim. He could come in off the bench and be a meaningful four or five man depending on the line-up around him.
He needs to bulk up and his shooting needs to improve. If he becomes even an average three-point shooter, that paired with his natural abilities will create a lot of defensive problems for teams that have to go against him. He’s so young though that are still real questions as to what his true potential looks like. That’s where the risk lies. He’s relatively unproven and other guys seem to have more sure futures, but for a team with five picks in the draft, it’s worth swinging for the fences with their final choice.