The 2014 NBA Draft is finally here, and for basketball fans, it is one of our favorite times of the year. It is hard not to get excited when ESPN starts hyping up the draft and the potential impact players that will be selected, and the inevitable draft night trades that will undoubtedly change the complexion of the draft every year. Of course, watching your favorite team and wondering what they are going to do is probably the biggest emphasis, and for the Atlanta Hawks, it really is anyone’s guess.
For exaggeration purposes, we have seen 3,432,212 different mock drafts since the NBA Finals ended just a week and a half ago, and in those countless mock drafts, there have been just as many different players projected to the Atlanta Hawks with the 15th overall pick. To say that the “experts” do not know what the Hawks will do with their 15th overall selection in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft would be an understatement.
Before we get into the idea of who the Hawks should take with their first round pick, we should probably just make sure they keep it in the first place. There are a number of different scenarios where Atlanta could trade that pick, and here is a quick look at the possibilities:
1. The Hawks move up: Although it is unlikely, the Hawks could move up from their spot, and perhaps the “hottest” target would be to pursue the 8th pick from the Sacramento Kings. It has been common knowledge that, for whatever reason, the Kings do not seem to want to utilize their first selection, and because of that, Sacramento is reportedly looking for potential buyers. If the Hawks are really keen on one player, they could potentially move up to to the 8-spot and get their man. In this scenario, Atlanta could be intent on moving rising sophomore point guard Dennis Schroder, or perhaps the expiring contract of veteran guard Lou Williams.
2. The Hawks could move back: Despite a couple of injuries to key names, this is still an extremely deep draft. The Hawks could very well get a lottery-type talent with their 15th selection, simply because of how many quality players are featured in this draft. However, since this draft is so deep, the player that Danny Ferry could potentially have his eye on could slip to later in the first round, and in that scenario, Atlanta could move out of the pick in order to add depth later in the draft. In this scenario, I envision the Hawks potentially selecting a draft-and-stash player (Dario Saric? Jusuf Nurkic?), but we will dive deeper into that scenario at a later time and date.
3. The Hawks could trade away the pick for a non-draft asset: Well, this would be fun. The fan base would all get excited for a new rookie entering the fray, and on draft night, no one would get to try on an Atlanta Hawks snap-back. With this being such a deep and talented draft class, other teams may be looking to move up and grab a player in the middle of the first round (for example, the Spurs trading George Hill to the Pacers for the 15th pick in the 2012 draft in order to select Kawhi Leonard). If the front office wants to “win now”, the Hawks could look to move their pick for a veteran, with names on the trading block that include Orlando’s Aaron Afflalo, New York’s Iman Shumpert, and Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young.
There is no telling which one of these actions the Hawks may take on draft night, but let’s take a glance at some of the players that could be in play should the Hawks elect to remain in their current spot and use their pick.
- Kyle Anderson, 6-foot-9 small forward, UCLA- Anderson is an intriguing talent, in that he is someone that can do a bit of everything. There is no doubt in my mind that Anderson will be a regular in the NBA for a long time, but organizational “fit” could go a long way in helping him succeed. Anderson may not be a superstar (although his ceiling suggests he could be a big-time player), but his floor is so high that he is not someone that would completely bust. At UCLA, Anderson scored, rebounded, and handled the ball, and it would seem as if he would fit in extremely will into the Hawks office, despite his slow-paced game.
- Zach LaVine, 6-foot-6 shooting guard, UCLA: It seems as if LaVine shot up draft big boards with his impressive workouts with individual teams, but LaVine looks like he could be a really nice player in the NBA. LaVine looks like he could combine uber athleticism with a strong ability to shoot the ball, and he has a wiry frame that could translate to the NBA game. The “upside” is certainly there, but LaVine also has a fairly low floor, especially when remembering his relative lack of production at the college level.
- Elfrid Payton, 6-foot-4 point guard, Louisiana Lafayette: It would not seem like the Hawks would need a point guard, with Jeff Teague, Shelvin Mack, and the aforementioned Dennisi Schroder already in the mix for the job, but if the Hawks are in “select the best player available” mode, they could go this route. Just like LaVine, Payton has shot up draft boards in recent weeks, and while Payton isn’t exactly the best shooter, he attacks the basket and makes things happen for his teammates. Defensively, his upside is tremendous, and if he falls, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him in Atlanta.
- James Young, 6-foot-8 swingman, Kentucky: Although Young is a bit raw, he is extremely athletic and appears to have a future as a scorer. While his athleticism will probably allow him to do anything if he were to work hard enough, the knock on Young at the moment is that his game isn’t very refined. He doesn’t do any one thing extremely well, but he is a lottery ticket, and with his skill set and raw athleticism, he could be a steal in the draft.
- Gary Harris, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Michigan State: Although Harris and Young may be cut from a similar mold, they are at two different stages. Harris’ game is far more refined and he relies less on athletic ability and more on his craft. Like Anderson, it would be hard to foresee Harris flopping in the NBA, but he may not project to be a star either. Size concerns could cause him to fall, but he will likely be off the board by the time Atlanta has a selection.
- Dario Saric, 6-foot-10 power forward, Croatia: Coach Mike Budenholzer showed last season that he is absolutely cut from the same mold as his former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich. Budenholzer’s offense received rave reviews when the personnel seemed to”buy-in”, but the offense wasn’t the only thing that Budenholzer stole from “Pop.” Together, Budenholzer and general manager Danny Ferry sparked the name, “Spurs East” when they drafted two international players (much like the Spurs would’ve done) last year in the draft, and if the Hawks went the international route again in 2014, it would not be a surprise. Of all the international players, Saric is easily the most talented of the group, and there have been reports that coach Budenholzer even traveled to see him in person a couple months back. Saric could very well be on the top of the Hawks draft board, but reports that he signed a two year contract with a team in Croatia just four days ago are troubling in that he not be able to come stateside for at least two years. Right now, the war rooms are filled with executives that are asking themselves if they should use a high pick on Saric in such a deep draft class. When some “insiders’ heard that Saric would be headed to New York to attend the draft in person, they assumed that he was guaranteed a lottery selection, but with Saric’s new contract he could fall later in the first round. The Croatian big man remains a pivot point in this year’s draft, and the Hawks are in the mix.
In addition to the aforementioned players, Atlanta could be looking to grab Michigan’s Nik Stauskas or Creighton’s Doug McDermott should they fall, and frankly, it wouldn’t be a jarring surprise to see Ferry go in a completely unforseen direction. Later in the night, the Atlanta Hawks will make their second selection at the 43rd overall slot, but it is extremely difficult to project which players will be on the board at that time, or if the Hawks will even be picking there.
Be sure to keep tuned into ATL All Day for all your NBA Draft coverage as Thursday night rapidly approaches, and as the picks come in at a furious pace, we’ll be here to break things down.