With just over 48 hours until the 2014 NBA Draft, virtually every conceivable name (within reason) has been directly linked to the Atlanta Hawks in some form or fashion. Still, it is never too late to touch on a relatively "new" name, and ESPN's Jeff Goodman has done so by projecting the Hawks to select former Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne with the 15th overall pick.
Goodman had this to say about the selection:
Al Horford has been injury-prone, and Payne would give the Hawks a skilled 6-foot-9 forward who could certainly help up front -- whether it's as a reserve behind Horford and Paul Millsap or while playing alongside one of them.
While I would take direct exception to the "injury-prone" label on a guy who had two fluke injuries (sorry, Al), the assertion that Payne would help immediately is one that is easy to support. Payne has big-time size and length (7-foot-4 wingspan), and after being a four-year player in East Lansing, his profile would suggest the ability to step in and be productive as a rookie. If there is a knock on Adreian Payne in the draft process, it is with his age (he is 23 years old), but if Atlanta loses Mike Scott in free agency, the backup power forward position would look quite bare when considering the current roster.
While his age and "upside" are somewhat questionable, there is little doubt that Payne is one of the best players right now that is available in this draft. He is very athletic for his size, and with shooting range that allowed him to knock down 42.3% of his threes as a senior at Michigan State, the varied skill set would be attractive in Mike Budenholzer's offensive scheme. Add to that the fact that he profiles as a good rebounder and a solid defender right out of the box, and you would be hard pressed to find a player available at 15 that would be better from day one.
Many expect Danny Ferry and the front office to look to the future with this pick, and there is plenty of evidence (just take a look at the 2013 first round) to support that thought process. Still, there is an argument to be made that Atlanta is an Eastern Conference contender next season if everything goes according to plan, and if Ferry looks to add immediate help, Payne would certainly fit the bill strongly.