On Tuesday, we covered the suddenly semi-real possibility that the Hawks could trade up to the top-5 in pursuit of Victor Oladipo or Trey Burke (click here), but the far more realistic scenario (we think) still sees the Hawks selecting players with their #17 and #18 picks. In that spirit, let’s take a quick glance at 10 (yes, 10) of the potential options for the Hawks with these picks.
Jamaal Franklin, SG San Diego State - At the time that I’m writing this, Franklin isn’t projected to the Hawks in any of the three mock drafts (DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, ESPN) that I am following. With that said, he’s the single name that I’ve heard linked the most to the Hawks in the past few weeks, and for that, he gets top billing. He’s a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with high-end athleticism and a big-time motor. Sound good? I believe so, but there is one issue with Franklin, and that is with his jump shot. Concerns about his inconsistent jumper (to be kind) have dropped him this far, and he shot just 41% as a junior at SDSU. However, he does nearly everything else well, and there have been understandable comps to his SDSU predecessor in Kawhi Leonard. Franklin averaged a staggering 9.5 boards a game in college (yes, he’s a shooting guard), and really competes at both ends. I like him a lot.
Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF UCLA - Muhammed is the most controversial player in the draft. Plain and simple. Until the past few days, he had been completely off my Hawks radar, but the team reportedly worked out he and Franklin together (in the midst of the Burke/Oladipo rumor mill) and as such, ESPN is now projecting Muhammed to Atlanta at #18. Coming into his freshman year at UCLA, Muhammed was considered to be the front-runner to go #1 in the draft, but his season was pretty much a disaster (by the lofty expectations). Muhammed managed to score effectively, but did nothing else, and there are real concerns about his ability to contribute in other ways in the NBA. Throw in his deficiencies in being able to go right off the dribble and his lack of elite athleticism, and the stock has taken a dive. I think he would present some value at 17/18 because he has a clear NBA skill, but I’m also not sure he fits into the mold of the new regime in Atlanta.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF Greece - There was significant buzz about the incredibly tall Greek point guard in the months leading up to the draft, but the whispers have gotten louder and louder to the point where Atlanta is projected to grab him in two different mocks. Antetokounmpo is 6-foot-9, and while he’s listed as a small forward for NBA purposes, he’s basically been playing point forward overseas. I’ll take a breath while scouts stop drooling. Okay, then. In addition to the size, he is only 18 years old, and he already possesses great court vision and passing ability. The “ace in the hole”, however, is the ability for Danny Ferry to potentially stash him away in Europe for a year or two. With the Hawks in the thick of a free agent chase, it could be useful for Ferry to use one or both 1st-rounders on international players in order to save the salary cap holds. A 6-foot-9, 18-year-old point forward is the ideal candidate.
Sergey Karasev, SF Russia - In full disclosure, Karasev probably isn’t dropping to #17, but I’ve seen him do it in at least one mock draft (!) so I’m pulling the trigger. Karasev is your typical, smart, skilled European wing, and at 19 years old, he’s got some maturing to do. Physically, he probably needs to add strength, but he’s a great passer by all accounts and can already shoot the rock. In addition, he’s already played at a very high level in Russia, so competition concerns are slight, and he could step in right away and potentially contribute. I’d love to see the Hawks grab an NBA-ready wing player with one of the two picks, and Karasev qualifies, if he’s still around.
Kelly Olynyk, PF/C Gonzaga - I love Kelly Olynyk. Almost to the point of irrationality. I frankly can’t believe that he is potentially available at #17, and if he’s there, he’s my pick. He produced at an insane level in college, posting a comical 36.57 Hollinger PER while shooting 62% from the field and averaging 18 points and 7 boards a game. Mind you, this was the first “real” college season of Olynyk’s career, and after a redshirt, he did all of that in just over 26 minutes per game. He’s incredibly versatile offensively, being able to step out and hit jumpers to go along with a nice post array, and he works incredibly hard on the court. Defensively, he’ll never be a “stopper”, but he’s not a liability either, and as he gains strength, he should be solid on that end. His “upside” is what seems to be keeping him down on draft boards, as he doesn’t possess elite athleticism by any stretch and he’s already 22 years old. However, I think he’d be fantastic value in this spot for Atlanta, and a Horford/Olynyk duo could be nice.
Gorgui Dieng, C Louisville - Speaking of “aged” prospects, Dieng is already 23 years old and will be 24 by the middle of his rookie season. Frankly, that’s the only reason why he isn’t a fringe lottery pick (at worst), and I like his game a lot. Dieng is a defense-first player who blocked nearly 3 shots a game in college, and he’s also a high-end rebounder from the frontcourt. In addition, he’s got great quickness and range, and while his offense is limited, he’s come a long way on that end in a short amount of time. If the Hawks are wanting an immediate impact, Dieng could be one of the best bets, and he could play 20 minutes a game while producing high-level defense right now.
Jeff Withey, C Kansas - More defense! Withey produced at a crazy high level, and while I referred to him in my second-round targets, if Danny Ferry wants him, he’ll probably need to grab him at #18 or move down. Withey’s defense would play right away, and it would give the Hawks the legit 7-foot center next to Horford that so many desire.
Rudy Gobert, PF/C France - This is the definition of a “project” pick. Gobert is 7-foot-2 with a ridiculous 7-foot-9 wingspan, and he seems to be an incredible athlete. He’s not a true center by any stretch (he weighs under 240 at 7-foot-2), but all reports are that he can really rebound, and if he can really run/jump like it seems, there are few guys in the NBA like him. The most desirable part about Gobert, aside from measurables, is the ability to stash him. He turns 21 years old today (June 26th), and the Hawks could lean toward grooming elsewhere on someone else’s dime. I’m intrigued, but not sold.
Shane Larkin, PG Miami - Aside from a potential move for Trey Burke, Larkin is the only point guard I’ve heard any link to from the Hawks side. He’s the son of MLB great Barry Larkin, and while I don’t particularly care about the pedigree, his quickness is electrifying, and that level of athletic ability is appealing. He produced in a big way at Miami (15 points, 5 assists, 41% 3-point FG) in his final season, and he can really, really shoot the ball. It’s a challenge to find a guy with his range coupled with the speed, and that makes people like Larkin a lot. There are weaknesses in that he doesn’t finish at the rim well, and he’s really, really small (listed at around 170 pounds), but he may go so high that he isn’t around at #17. It would be a surprise to me if the Hawks drafted a point guard in this spot, as it would make the Teague/Paul/etc. quandary even more difficult, but the value would be good.
Mason Plumlee, PF Duke - Finally, Plumlee is a guy that the Hawks are consistently linked to in this position. People often confused Mason with his brother Miles, who is a more plodding/rebounding center-type, but he’s a big-time athlete at the power forward spot. He jumps very well (white guy alert!) and can knock down mid-range jumpers, but, despite being a four-year player, is still raw offensively. I’m not convinced that he’s an NBA regular without an improved interior offensive game, and he’d be the guy with the lowest upside of any on this list.
The fun/crazy part about this draft is that the Hawks could easily use one or both of their picks on guys not listed above. By the mid-point of the 1st round, it will officially become wildly unpredictable from pick-to-pick, and trades (both with the Hawks and otherwise) could swing the order as well. Stay tuned for coverage as things unfold on Thursday night.