When the Atlanta Hawks picked Marcus Eriksson late in the second-round of this summer's draft, he had not played in a professional basketball game for over 9 months. The Swedish prospect tore his ACL just 5 minutes into his 2014-15 season. The 6'7 sharpshooter is most likely at least two seasons away from being considered for the Atlanta roster. Projected as a role player due to his athletic limitations, the 21-year-old once made 78 of 81 three-point shots in street clothes when he was just 17 years of age.
Eriksson's length and quiet stroke evoke comparisons to current Atlanta shooting guard Kyle Korver. It is dangerous to compare a young player to one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but there are some fair comparisons. Eriksson shot 94% from the free throw line in his last full season of basketball (although he oddly has missed both free throw attempts this season)--an excellent predictor of future success in maintaining his shot. When Korver was at Creighton, his shot did not have as quick a release as what he has managed to develop during his NBA career but it was still markedly quicker than Eriksson. There should be little concern of the Swedish prospect making open shots at any level, but there is a question on how often he will get open and his ability to make plays. Some of these traits are revealed in his 2014 Eurocamp video which best shows his skill set prior to last season's ACL injury:
Marcus does not show much athleticism in the video but there is more of a bounce in some of those clips than what I have seen on film since the injury. His slight frame has been a concern with his development but he looks to have added some weight during his rehabilitation period. In his two official Spanish ACB games, he has managed to score 15 points in 24 minutes of play while making 3/6 shots from deep. It is very difficult to tell much from those numbers and his role as a reserve on a very good team may not make that any easier in the near future. However, the good news for Atlanta fans is that Eriksson looks on schedule following the injury and he remains on a strong European team where he is in a perfect position to grow as an all-around player. He still looked limited in his "preseason" debut but clips from scoring 16 points in 13 minutes are probably a relief to Atlanta scouts:
Fans should be a long way from expecting Eriksson to be ready to replace Kyle Korver in the near or distant future. Eriksson looks closer to an ill-scouted Korver stereotype than the well-rounded player that the Creighton star has become. Eriksson's hands and vision on both ends of the floor remain liabilities in addition to his athletic shortcomings. However, in a league that continues to seek shooting more and more, Marcus only needs to become adequate on the defensive end to be able to find minutes on an NBA floor.
While his length and shot make for an obvious comparison to Kyle Korver, he may be more fairly compared to former Hawk draftee John Jenkins. Both share defensive limitations and having athletic limitations further diminished by injury (back in the case of John Jenkins). Jenkins was never able to translate his shot-making to a high enough level to justify his shortcomings. While Eriksson's profile is not all that different from Jenkins, Atlanta will not have to use a roster spot or spend any cap space while waiting to see if the young Swede's stroke will translate to wearing "ATL" across his chest.
Peachtree Hoops will be keeping up with Eriksson as his knee braces reduce in bulk over the course of this season. In the best case scenario, I would anticipate him being able to contribute to the Atlanta bench some time after the 2016-17 season. That said, Walter Tavares was universally believed to be 2 years away when selected in the second round and made his way on the roster a year earlier. Here is to hoping that Eriksson surprises everyone this season and one day knocking down shots in Atlanta in more than just street clothes.