When the dust settled on the 1st round in Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks emerged with the rights to center Lucas Nogueira and point guard Dennis Schroeder. In order to move up one spot, the Hawks were forced to include the 18th pick in the draft in a trade with the Mavericks for shooting guard the 16th pick that was used on Nogueira, Jared Cunningham, and the 44th pick (presumably to allow Dallas to save cap money).
First, the Hawks selection of Nogueira is a divisive one. On one hand, the Hawks were removed in late discussions to be interested in Nogueira, and he was projected to be selected in this area. On the other hand, the “experts” didn’t seem to be in love with him (for the most part), and obviously, the general public doesn’t know a lot about the Brazilian center.
He is an elite-level athlete, and that, in itself, makes this pick extremely interesting. As a legit 7-footer, he is 220 pounds and can run the court at a level that most players can’t. He’s projected as an “energy” guy at the next level, but his impressive shot-blocking ability and rebounding accumen make him attractive from day one. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not positive about the short-term plan for his deployment, but down the line, a rim-protecting big man would be a great fit next to a maturing Al Horford in the front court.
If there are weaknesses to Nogueira’s game, they are on the offensive end. As you would expect from a “project” big, his offensive skills are very raw. At 20 years old, it certainly isn’t too late for him to develop a post game, however, and you can’t teach finishing ability. It will help him to gain some weight (he’s listed at 220 pounds right now), and with some NBA strength, his post game should see a small bump.
With the second pick, the Hawks picked up another big-time athlete in Dennis Schroeder. Schroeder was a player that the Hawks weren’t linked to (at least publicly), but that was more of a function of the experts thinking he would be off of the board before the #17 pick.
He’s an ultra-fast point guard with playmaking skills, and at 19 years old, there’s a lot of room to mature. He has good size for the position (6-foot-2) and a ridiculous 6-foot-8 wingspan that makes scouts drool. His #1 skill is his ability to penetrate and create, and that is always a refreshing asset for an emerging team. He’s more of a pure scorer by all reports, but his pure passing ability is adequate (at worst), and as he matures in age and experience, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his IQ jump a few levels.
The 3rd (and much smaller) part of the 1st round is the acquisition of Jared Cunningham. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Oregon State appeared in only 8 games last year with the Mavericks, but he’s only 22 years old and was a first-rounder. He’s another super-athletic player, and his strength is getting to the rim. It may be a challenge for Cunningham to make the roster, much less grab playing time ahead of guys like Williams and Jenkins, but he’s another asset at a cheap cost.
In the end, the Hawks grabbed some high-end talent from the middle tier of the 1st round. It remains to be seen how they will deploy that talent, but as of Thursday night, I am pleased with the acquisitions. There is much, much more analysis to come, but for now, Danny Ferry and company get a passing grade from me.