While the first round picks (especially of the “lottery” variety) garner all of the attention in the lead up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft, franchises can be changed for the positive with who they grab in the second round of the draft. The most famous example of this is the San Antonio Spurs, who drafted (and stashed) an Argentinian guard named Manu Ginobili, only to bring him to the US for a staggering decade of productivity and excellence.
In that vein, the Hawks hold the #47 and #50 picks (in addition to #17 and #18 in the first round), and as one of the few teams with two selections in the second round, they have a considerable amount of options.
As far as mock drafts go, the results are very mixed. NBADraft.net currently (as of Monday morning) has the Hawks selecting former Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin at #47 and former Bucknell center Mike Muscala at #50. Frankly, this would be the ideal scenario for the Hawks in my opinion, but we’ll come back to that in a few moments. The other high-profile draft site (DraftExpress.com) has the Hawks grabbing Detroit guard Ray McCallum at #47 and European big man Bojan Dubljevic at #50.
Obviously, second round mock drafts are incredible inaccurate (how could they not be?), but this gives a vague idea of what the Hawks could be looking at. As you’ll see below (when I list “my guys” in the second round), I would be thrilled if the Hawks could put together the Goodwin/Muscala package, but in the interest of full disclosure, that is incredibly unlikely.
Without further ado, here are the guys that I would target in Round 2 if I was Danny Ferry on Thursday evening:
Jeff Withey, Center, Kansas
This selection is a bit of a cheat. After all, Withey has been considered a fringe 1st-round player for much of the draft process, and there is a real chance that he could land in the bottom-half of the the opening round. With that said, Withey is a divisive player, and most mocks (both ESPN and Draft Express) have him landing in the 2nd round, so it is at least vaguely possible that he could last until #47.
He has one big-time skill, and that is in his shot blocking prowess. For reference, Withey averaged 3.9 blocks per game under 31 minutes as a senior at Kansas, and he demonstrated the ability to change the entire game with his rim protection. In addition, he has pretty good mobility around the rim, allowing him to show on pick-and-rolls, and that gives him a boost in the NBA game. The negatives around Withey are also plentiful, however.
His offensive game lags well behind his defense, as he has no post game to speak of, and while he improved both around the rim and in the mid-range as a senior, he is far from a finished product. Also, Withey is already 23 years old, and while that seems young in most circles of life, that is ancient by today’s NBA “prospect” standards. If he fell to Atlanta, I would be appalled if Danny Ferry didn’t grab him.
CJ Leslie, Forward, NC State
I honestly can’t believe that CJ Leslie’s draft stock has fallen this far. He has the college production (15 points, 8 boards a game last season), the high-level size (6-foot-9, 210 pounds) and athleticism, and even has the major-college pedigree out of NC State. I think Leslie’s drop on draft boards has been a result of “too much tape” on him, and the ability of scouts to pick him apart a bit. There are weaknesses in Leslie’s game, as he is a dreadful free-throw shooter who doesn’t score well on the box, but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. If we took a rewind to about 10 years ago, Leslie would be a top-10 pick just on his “upside”, and as a result of that, he should go in the 1st round.
Why wouldn’t an NBA team want a guy who knows how to play, can run the floor, can handle the ball, and can shoot it with range at 6-foot-9? If you can’t tell, I’m all-in on Leslie, and if he lasts this far, the Hawks would have a steal.
Mike Muscala, Center, Bucknell
Wait, a big man from Bucknell!? Really? Yes, I really, really like the aforementioned Muscala. His stock has risen in recent days and weeks on the back of some impressive workouts, but Muscala’s play on the court at Bucknell was tremendous as well. He averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game as a senior, and while the competition levl was admittedly suspect, Muscala also produced against big-time opponents like Missouri (25 points, 14 rebounds), George Mason (16 points, 15 rebounds), and Purdue (14 points, 10 rebounds).
He is an extremely efficient player, as he posted a college PER (player efficiency rating) of 36.34, and shot 51% from the field with 79% from the free-throw line. The #1 attribute that has scouts excited about Muscala is his basketball IQ, and he seems to always be in the right place at the right time. I have a soft spot for smart players, and he fits the bill. I don’t see any scenario where he becomes a flat-out stiff in the NBA, and while his defensive ability could be average at best based on his failure to cover a lot of ground, there is definitely a place for Muscala in the league.
Given his current “status”, he is the most likely guy on this list (so far) to actually fall to #47, and he’d look great as a backup to Al Horford in the potential absence of Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson.
Archie Goodwin, Guard, Kentucky
Archie Goodwin can’t shoot. Plain and simple. When he came out of high school as a huge prize for Kentucky, there was reason to think that he would an NBA lottery pick, or at least a first-rounder after a year at Kentucky. However, it is very tough to take a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who can’t shoot. For reference, Goodwin shot 44% from the floor in college, and an abominable 27% from the college 3-point line while tanking to 64% from the free-throw line.
For all of the positives about Goodwin, if he can’t fix the jumper, it isn’t going to matter. Those positives are numerous, as he is very athletic, has big-time skills, and seems to genuinely play hard, but it all comes back to the jumper. He will never fall past the middle of the 2nd round simply because he has huge upside, but the Hawks better employ a shooting coach.
Deshaun Thomas, Guard/Forward, Ohio State
This one is incredibly simple. Deshaun Thomas has one elite skill, and that elite skill is in supreme demand in the NBA. He can flat-out score. He averaged 20 points a game in the grueling Big 10 as a junior, and he did so using his good size (6-foot-7) and ability to score in various ways. I believe that Thomas’ ceiling is that of a 6th man (you’ll see why in a moment), but if his scoring ability translates like it should, he’ll be valuable. The negatives around Thomas are severe. He has motor questions (to be kind), shot selection issues, and basically doesn’t possess another NBA skill aside from scoring (unless versatility counts).
He will be a boom-or-bust player, which, in short, is why he’s fallen this far, but in the right system where a team can hide his weaknesses, there is upside. Thomas seems like a player who Mike Budenholzer could utilize to the fullest, and the Hawks have lacked that pure “scorer” (aside from Lou Williams) in recent years.
James Ennis, Guard/Forward, Long Beach State
The Hawks could really use a potentially dynamic wing player, and Ennis possesses upside rarely seen in the mid-to-late second round. Despite being 22 years old, Ennis played only two years at LBSU, but improved dramatically from year one to year two. In 2012-2013, he averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds a game while shooting very impressive percentages of 49% from the field and 36% from three-point distance. The #1 aspect of Ennis’s game is his elite athleticism, and it would be nice to see Danny Ferry grab a guy with that quality somewhere in this draft at the wing position.
Ennis isn’t without weaknesses, as he is still very raw (from lack of experience) and he isn’t a great ball-handler for his size, but this is the type of “upside” play that could pay big-time dividends. He’ll get slept on because of where he played his college ball, but I really, really like Ennis.
Obviously, there is a significantly larger player pool for Danny Ferry to choose from than is reflected on this list. Between the possibility that guys like Withey and Leslie could be gone by this point and the shear number of scenarios that Ferry could be contemplating, it is entirely possible (read: likely) that Ferry wouldn’t draft any of the six guys either selection. It’s going to be an incredibly interesting night for the future of the franchise, and just because it’s “Round 2″ doesn’t make things any less important.
Stay tuned for a look at the Hawks’ options with picks #17 and #18 in the 1st round.