While most of our attention will be on who the hawks will take in the first round of the NBA draft, we should also keep an eye out for potential diamonds in the rough known as the second round. Currently, the hawks have one of the highest number of second round/ undrafted players on the roster.
Shelvin Mack, Mike Scott, Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, Gustavo Ayon, Mike Muscala, and Paul Millsap all got their NBA career started not by holding a jersey on stage but by getting a phone call in the late hours of Thursday Night while their neighbor next door nods off to sleep.
With that in mind, I decided to look at players that Ferry and co. might be keen to draft once Adam Silver hands the hosting duties over to the new deputy commissioner, Mark Tatum.
For the second round, I’m going off of what I believe The Hawks GM would be looking for in a prospect.
1) Upperclassmen from non S-Class Elite NCAA Programs.
2) International Prospects that can be stashed for 1-2 years (and have the skills to come over afterwards).
*I’m going strictly off of draftsite info and videos made by people that seem to REALLY like Maybach Music and Lupe Fiasco instrumentals. I am a fan with a non-basketball business to take care of and can’t afford to fly to Eurocamp every spring.
On to the list!
Part II: International Prospects that can be stashed for 1-2 years (and have the skills to come over afterwards).
When it comes to international prospects, a concept that seems to always be forgotten is that once a prospect is drafted, he doesn’t stop developing. Just because a player is not in the United States of America doesn’t mean he gets encased in carbonite to be thawed out once his contract for Real Madrid is finished. International players will continue to grow as players just like college players.
With that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to what kind of international prospects DF and co. could be looking at during the second round of the NBA Draft on Thursday. I’ve found that a good place to find potential Hawks prospects is at the Adidas Eurocamp. Hawks coach Kenny Atkinson has participated in this camp in the past and most recent Hawks/Spurs draft prospects have had productive showings at this event.
Also, as a note when drafting international prospects, you can afford to not draft for need. Remember, by the time some of these prospects are ready to come over, your depth chart is going to look a lot different from when they first had their name called.
In terms of prospects, DF seems to fall into 2 categories for prospects:
1) young prospects with abnormal physical attributes
2) young prospects that play (and will continue to play) for and against elite overseas competition.
Category 1 deals with players that if they would have been born in America, would have been top 5 picks in the draft. I say this because if they would have been discovered as 15 year olds in Missouri, Bill Self would have been at their doorstep in time for dinner. However, they were born in Nigeria and immigrated to Italy, so the consensus isn’t yet unanimous. These players can become assets for the team down the road as they are developed either here or abroad. If your GM has a working relationship with the team overseas even better.
Category 2 deals with players that have proven themselves in a very short time overseas and look to be well experienced by the time they put on a Hawks uniform. We’re talking Euroleague, Spanish ACB, and Adriatic League. These are players that will be "veterans" by the time they come over with defined strengths and weaknesses that can be tweaked to fit into your system. All leagues aren’t created equally, drafting a prospect who plays for the middle of the road Turkish team is much different from a drafting a prospect who plays for FC Barcelona. For DF and co., the NBA is the end goal. You don’t want a prospect wasting years playing against talent that would never become part of an NBA rotation. When this happens, your 6’5" PG becomes Cenk Aknol.
So, which players may be on our radar?
Nikola Jokic, C Mega Vizura (Adriatic League)
Nikola is a big with a mixture of old-school offensive along with a developing pick-n-pop game. Being 6’11" with a 7’3" wingspan, Nikola is known for having an above average passing ability even compared to small and power forwards. A good comparison for how his offensive game could develop would be Luis Scola (w/ the potential to expand his range out to the 3pt line). At the moment, his defense keeps him from being able to contribute on the NBA level. With time however, Jokic can become a solid addition to the Hawks frontcourt.
Vasilije Micic, PG Mega Vizura (Adriatic League)
Jokic’s teammate Vasilije Micic knows how to run a team. At 6’6" with a wingspan of 6’7" Micic is an oversized PG that has made a living out of finding space going to the basket. Micic is at his best when running the pick-n-roll, which has become a foundation of most NBA team offenses. Micic knows how to pass out of the pick, who to pass it to and when to pull up for a jumper or floater. Micic’s development will come more from expanding his range out to the 3 pt line. With development, Micic can go from having a career arc similar to Greivis Vasquez who has become a more than competent point guard to that of a borderline all-star in Goran Dragic.
Damien Inglis, SF Roanne (French League)
Winner of the 2014 Paul George award for player most likely to look completely different 3 years from now (2013 winner Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the one giving away the tiara), Damien Ingils is currently a 6’8" SF from French Guiana by way of France with a wingspan of 7’3". I say currently because there is a good chance this guy will be 6’10" by this time next year. He just turned 19 years old and will be one of the youngest prospects in this year’s draft. His calling card will be on defense. He has very large hands and should start many fast breaks over his career. He’s also a very capable rebounder grabbing 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes for his French club team. Questions with Damien will surround his competition. While he certainly got minutes for his club team, they weren’t very good and fell into the French B league. If DF were to draft Damien, he would have to either ensure that Damien got to a much more competitive team or bite the bullet and bring him over early to make sure he gets the development and coaching he needs.
I’ll end this with a note on what I believe is a important lesson that gets lost in the mainstream narrative on what it means to be an international prospect.
International prospects who get drafted and stay overseas go on living life. They wake up, practice, go to different places, play games, get injured, meet people, and have families. This may sound like a tangent but it goes to the core of what I believe teams look for in constructing a team. They want people who have learned how to cope with being a "professional" athlete and live a normal life. Being a professional doesn’t make you a celebrity. It doesn’t mean that you’ve "made it". It means that you have a career in the field of athletics. For most international players, by the time they’re 20, they’ve already been a professional for almost a quarter of their lives. They’ve interacted with men older than them on a daily basis, learned life lessons, and realized that what they do is day-to-day work.
The advantages to this way of thought may not be obvious, but the cumulative effect on a team or a player’s professional career can be drastic. This leads to a locker room that doesn’t end up as a talking point on sports radio or the subject to an article on deadspin.com. Words like "distraction", "nightmare", and "cancer" aren’t thrown around. It’s hard to embrace the debate on how on time a player is to work. It leads to a team that comes off as uninteresting and a team that can focus on what they are supposed to do... their jobs.
I say this because I’ve realized that the best Hawks team I’ve seen since the 1990’s had 5 players that had international experience and 9 players whose names weren’t called by David Stern. These are players that knew early on that playing in the Association is something to be cherished and something that has to be protected on a day-to-day basis. There is no room for individual theatrics at Phillips Arena anymore, only the combined beauty of a team working together to complete one goal at a time.
Here’s to hoping that tonight there is another person watching when Mark Tatum takes the podium, whether here in the US or around the world, a diamond in the rough, ready to go to work, ready to be found.