2013 NBA Draft: Interview With Peach Tree Hoops Writer, Kris Willis


May 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and new head coach Mike Budenholzer take questions from the media during a press conference at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NBA Draft is coming up, and with that in mind, I caught up with Peach Tree Hoops writer, Kris Willis. Lately, Kris has been doing a lot of work previewing the Atlanta Hawks draft options and participating in various mock drafts with SB Nation NBA. He also recently talked with other writers on the site about the draft in a Google Hangout.

It’s safe to say that Kris has done a good amount of work with the Atlanta Hawks and their options on draft day. To top it off, Willis also started writing with Fansided’s very own Hawks site, Soaring Down South.

Brad Rowland and I posed a few questions for Kris, and he was kind enough to give us his insight on everything.

Let’s get into the Q&A

My questions:

With so few players under contract for the Atlanta Hawks, what is the biggest need for them right now, in your opinion? Is this a need that can be filled easily in the draft or are they going to have to address that in free agency?

The Hawks are in position to be able to go in a lot of directions at the Draft. I think they are keeping their options open and I am not sure there is a position that they would term off limits when June 27 rolls around. Obviously depth in the frontcourt seems to always be a priority and getting someone capable of guarding opposing small forwards is also a strong need. There are a number of intriguing options at center in the draft that could develop into rotational players maybe even as early as next season. Seems like there are fewer options at small forward and that is something that the team may have to address through free agency.

Over at SB Nation you guys have done several Mock Drafts, with a few of them showing Mason Plumlee falling to the Hawks. As a UNC student, this is unacceptable. Please tell me this isn’t actually going to happen (if there is a chance it does, what are the pros and cons of the Duke alum?).

Plumlee has been a hot topic over at Peachtree Hoops for the last couple of weeks. The interesting thing is that Plumlee rates out pretty well on most of the big boards where his athleticism and rebounding ability stand out. If he was a better help defender then his stock would likely be on the rise into the lottery. Plumlee is not my first choice but I do see a guy that may be capable of stepping into a backup role from day one.

I have asked Brad a few times about whether Horford is a better fit for the center position or the power forward position. What are your thoughts on this? In this year’s draft are there more options at the 5 or the 4? Ideally, what kind of player would you pair with Horford and which position would he play?

I think Al Horford has performed very well as a center and is one of the top centers in the Eastern Conference. However, I think he could be even better at the power forward position especially if he was paired with a defensive center that could also help out in the rebounding category. I see a lot of centers that will likely be on the board for the Hawks but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them try to address the situation in free agency.

Of course Dwight Howard is the biggest name on the market and I think Horford would fit excellent with him. Howard could occupy the low block while Al operated in the pick and pop and out of the high post. I also think a couple of restricted free agents like Nikola Pekovic and Tiago Splitter could be names to watch.

You have talked about the Hawks potentially drafting foreign players with one or more of their picks. Could you tell us why you think the Hawks could do this, and what it would do for the team in free agency?

The Hawks have four picks in the upcoming draft and it is probably unlikely that all four will be on the team’s roster next season. The situation we have been exploring of late is potentially using one of the first picks on a guy like Giannis Antetokounmpo who will likely stay overseas for a couple more seasons. The Hawks then could send a letter to the league stating that Antetokounmpo would not play this season and could claim extra salary cap room to use in free agency.

Who are your top three targets going into the Draft? How much faith do you have in the organization after multiple failed selections in the past?

That is a tough question given that outside of the top five or eight players there are a lot of similarities in many of the prospects. On personal board I like Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, Greece forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and San Diego State wing Jamaal Franklin. Its quite normal for Hawks fans to be nervous at this time of the year but with a new regime in charge I am optimistic.

Brad’s questions:

There has been a ton of focus (and rightfully so) on the two first-round picks, but what do you think is the best strategy for 2nd-round picks? Both in general, and specifically for the 2013 Hawks? 

In the second round I think you go full blown best player available. I think Atlanta got a nice pick in Mike Scott last season and hopefully can repeat that two times over this year. Again the Hawks will have a lot of needs and if they don’t pick a Eurostash in the first round then it is definitely a possibility in the second.

Do you believe that the Danny Ferry/Mike Budenholzer combination will be able to replicate the “Spurs model” in acquiring high-level talent (Parker, Leonard, Ginobili, Green) with late picks and rookie free agent signings?

If you are buying in on the new look Atlanta Hawks then that has to be the hope that you are clinging too. I am most interested in seeing if they can put a franchise wide system in place that covers all aspects of the organization. Watching the NBA Finals now its very apparent at how important the draft has been to the Spurs ongoing success.

Is there a player that is currently projected in the top 10 that you would like to see the Hawks target? If so, do you believe that it would be a good idea for a roster with so many question marks to package both 1st-rounders?

There are a number of players in the top 10 that I like a lot but I don’t think the 17th and 18th picks would be enough to move the Hawks up. The problem is that once you get outside the first 10-12 picks there isn’t a lot of difference in a guy picked at No. 13 and a guy picked at No. 17.

A big thanks to Kris for taking the time to answer these questions for us, and make sure you check out his work over at Peach Tree Hoops. Also, feel free to post any questions or comments you might have below for myself, Brad, or any of the other writers here on ATL All Day to answer.