Now that summer league is over the Atlanta Hawks will have a few decisions to make in regards to their roster for the upcoming season. One of those decisions will involve whether or not to bring first-round draft pick Lucas Nogueira to the NBA this season or leave him in Spain for another season.
Nogueira recently discussed this topic with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and said that he'd be fine with either option but if the decision was his then he'd be in the United States with the Hawks next season.
"If I stay here, I'm happy. But if I need to go back I'm happy too because in Spain everybody believes in me. I've lived five years in Spain and I know my club and everybody knows me. I'm happy. I know I can improve my game in Spain. I improved so much this year from last year. Right now, the most important thing is my body. I can't improve my body in Spain. I'm perfect to stay here because the most important thing is to improve my body."
The Hawks don't appear to be a team that can contend for a championship next season so it should be easier to afford the rookies playing time at some point in the season since there are lowered expectations. Once Danny Ferry took over as GM of the Hawks, he placed a strong emphasis in player development and it will be interesting to see how that manifests now with Mike Budenholzer in place as head coach. Atlanta currently has a trio of assistant coaches in Darvin Ham, Taylor Jenkins and Kenny Atkinson who have a wealth of experience in player development.
Bringing Nogueira over now would also afford him the opportunity to learn from Elton Brand whom the Hawks' signed to a one-year deal this summer. Brand is known as a pro's pro when it comes to his approach to the game and how he gets his body ready for an NBA season. Nogueira will need a strong veteran presence to help guide him and Brand would seem to fit that role nicely.
Bringing Nogueira to the NBA this season would also give the Hawks the opportunity to place him in the D-League at some point during the season where they could further monitor his progress. Atlanta's D-League affiliation with Bakersfield isn't exactly ideal given the west coast location but the timing could be centered around a western road trip. Many teams opt to send an assistant coach along with prospects to the D-League to get an up close look at their progress.
Currently Atlanta has a frontcourt that will feature Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Elton Brand. They also have 2012 second round pick Mike Scott who appears likely to stick with the club. When determining the short term future for Nogueira and fellow 2013 draft selection Mike Muscala, Atlanta must consider whether it needs another veteran presence in the frontcourt. A player like Ivan Johnson could certainly help strengthen the frontcourt rotation but it will make it more difficult to get the rookies and young players consistent minutes. It will be a careful balancing act for coach Budenholzer and the organization.
As Nogueira stated to the AJC, he can continue to develop on the court in Spain as he has done so last season but his body would benefit the most from coming to the NBA where his diet and strength workouts could be more easily monitored.
This situation will continue to evolve as we get closer to training camp but it will be interesting to see if Ferry and company elect to bring in another frontcourt player on a guaranteed contract rather than just bringing them to training camp. The more guaranteed vets that end up on the roster make it much more likely that players like Nogueira and Muscala end up developing elsewhere next season.