For now, the NBA draft lottery, draft combine, and the draft itself have all been postponed indefinitely. And now that it looks like the bottom eight teams in the standings will most likely not be included in the NBA restart this summer , bottom dwelling teams like the Atlanta Hawks will have many more months to prepare for their next task, the NBA draft. As the standings currently sit, the Hawks would be #4 in the lottery, with a 12% chance of getting the top pick. Now, this is not a year in which there really is a consensus number one pick, so being in the top three or even top five should suffice in getting a premium talent. In fact, with the lack of mobility of the prospects in terms of on-site interviews and workouts, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe that the lack of additional information will truly separate the astute talent evaluators from the superficial ones.
The Case for the Ant-Man: Anthony Edwards
For the Hawks, there are approximately 4 prospects that I would target in the top half of the lottery. Chief amongst them would be University of Georgia guard Anthony Edwards. While Edwards had an uneven freshman year , much like current Hawk Cam reddish did at Duke, Edwards displays a tantalizing skill set nonetheless. First of all he has an NBA body already as a 19 year old. And his athleticism, penetrating ability, an shooting and ballhandling are all top shelf and fit the Atlanta Hawks dribble, pass, shoot requirement for their prospects. While there are questions about his field and his shot selection, and at times his motor, he is generally considered to be a good kid, and any issues with decision-making Can be attributed primarily two basic issues of maturity at that age. All in all he looks to be a moldable elite talent , who, oh by the way, is also a local. He would be my primary choice for the Hawks at the top of the draft .
The Belle of the Ball: LaMelo Ball
LaMelo Ball is perhaps the prospect that is most consistently rated at the top of this draft. He brings with him elite passing ability. However, like his brother Lonzo, he is very raw in other areas including shooting, defense, and physical conditioning. But he has more than NBA height for the point guard position at 6 foot 7 inches. He just needs to put on a few more pounds. His outside shot does actually look workable. And if he has the work ethic of his older brother, he should pick up on the nuances of NBA defense in short order. The only question for Atlanta is whether he would make an appropriate fit in their backcourt with established star point guard Trae Young. But he does have the size to play alongside Young, and if his shooting develops, this could be a very unique pair moving forward. I would consider him at the top of the draft or more likely consider a trade-down for someone thirsting for a passer and quarterback like Ball, to possibly put Atlanta in position to take the next prospect that I will talk about, who is a better fit for the Hawks.
The Killer Lefty: Killian Hayes
Killian Hayes is a rapid riser who originally hails from France but has been playing in a German professional League this past season. He is primarily a point guard but at 6 foot 5, with decent length, and rapidly improving scoring ability, he looks to be able to play the shooting guard position as well. And this versatility would put him in good stead in regards to the Hawks. He should be able to play not only point guard but also shooting guard alongside Trae Young, and he could more than easily serve as a secondary playmaker to help unlock Trae Young’s spot up shooting ability. He continues to grow, and should fill out nicely. And he has some understanding of defense already. Further, his shot-making craft is very advanced, including a step back jump shot that even James Harden would be proud of. Hayes is not an elite athlete, but he is athletic enough, and his ballhandling allows him to get virtually anywhere on the court that he needs to. He is fairly left-hand dominant at this time, but he has the makings of a right hand that, with his apparent work ethic, should develop with time. In terms of a fit with the Hawks, he would be my second choice after Anthony Edwards.
Double O in the Top 7: Onyeka Okongwu
Finally, big man on Onyeka Okongwu out of USC is the other elite talent on the board that I would consider for Atlanta in the top part of the lottery. Normally I would not consider a big man for the Hawks with them being loaded in the frontcourt at the current time with Clint Dapela, Dewayne Dedmon, and of course John Collins. But Okongwu had a truly special season, especially for a freshman , both from a traditional scouting standpoint and from an analytics standpoint. He is an explosive athlete with a decent understanding of defense, and reasonable feel. Plus, he’s got the makings of an outside shot, so you could be looking at a Bam Adebayo type player, and who could really pass up that type of a player no matter what roster you have. If either Hayes or Edwards are not available, I would strongly consider taking Okongwu for the Hawks and watching him grow.
Honorable Lottery Mention
A couple more prospects that I would consider for the Hawks probably in the second half of the lottery would be Kentucky combo guard Tyrese Maxey, North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony, and Florida State combo forward Patrick Williams. I liken Maxey to a Victor Oladipo type scoring guard who, like Oladipo, is a bit undersized but exhibits significant scoring craft and has the length to make up for his lack of height. Anthony however does not have the length that Maxie has , but he is a more legitimate 6 3 to begin with, and he exhibits scoring ability that could almost be likened to a poor man’s Allen Iverson. And in today’s NBA you only have to look at the defending world champion Toronto Raptors to look at a two point guard offense that could succeed. Patrick Williams is a strong 6 foot 8 inches tall, with signs of the athleticism needed to guard positions 2 through 4. He also has an improving outside shot, in addition to really good passing feel in the pick-and-roll game. All of that could portend a 3-and-D player to begin with, but someone who develops into an actual multi-faceted scorer with time. So, these are a couple of guys I would consider in picks 5 through 8 in the lottery for the Hawks, with 8 being the lowest position that they could statistically fall to.
At the end of the day, I do trust Atlanta General Manager Travis Schlenk and his scouting eye, whichever direction he should choose in the first round of the 2020 Draft, a draft that is not likely to come around until October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.