There is not much new to report on the NBA prospect front. The college season is two weeks away from getting started and the international season is still young. You can look back on our 2016 NBA Preview or our 2016 NBA Draft Rankings to get familiarized with prospects to watch. To update our preview, Kentucky's Skal Labissiere has been declared eligible for the 2015-16 season and will likely battle LSU forward Ben Simmons for the top spot. Next week, our prospect guide for the best games of the non-conference season will help assist fans in watching the top 2016 draft prospects through the end of 2015.
Before going deeper into players and preparing for which prospect the Hawks will choose not to draft or trade away this year (kidding...sort of), it is helpful to know what future draft assets Atlanta has both for potential in season moves and on draft night. After two season of tracking the Brooklyn swap rights, there is no drama for the upcoming first-round selection. In fact, Atlanta has no conditions placed on any of its own future first-round picks.
Atlanta's one additional first-round asset is the 2018 first-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves which Atlanta acquired in trading away 2014 draft pick Adreian Payne. Hawks' fans should be cheering for Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to get Minnesota into the playoffs in 2018 for Atlanta to acquire the pick. It is lottery protected for the 2018 through 2020 seasons and then becomes 2 second round picks in 2020 and 2021 if not used by then. While the need for the Wolves to improve is not imminent, it is important to consider that the value of the pick increases if teams believe that the Wolves will be a playoff team in 2018.
In addition to possessing both of their own picks in 2016, Atlanta has an additional second-round choice via Washington. With the successes of Mike Scott, Mike Muscala, Walter Tavares, and Lamar Patterson, Atlanta's scouting has performed well beyond expectations with later choices. The Hawks have stashed two second-round picks in each of the last two drafts, so it would not be a surprise if the pattern continues.
It may be hard to get excited about watching potential second-round choices but it certainly makes the college season more interesting. Muscala and Patterson were both players that I hoped Atlanta might target entering their senior seasons and it has been awesome to see them make the transition to the NBA--especially Lamar as he has surprised everyone to start the season. While the exciting part of the draft leans on the incoming freshmen likely to land in the lottery, keep an eye on the upperclassmen and those international names that are tough to pronounce. Two players I currently have as borderline lottery prospects, yet are second rounders on most services are Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield and Bulgarian power forward Aleksandar Vezenkov (teammate at FC Barcelona with 2015 Atlanta selection Marcus Eriksson). Both are draft-and-stash candidates if the are not taken in the first round. Turkey's Furkan Torkmaz is a borderline lottery pick that Atlanta would likely consider moving up to get if given the opportunity. Villanova junior Josh Hart is a complete sleeper that could be taken in the 50s when Atlanta is likely to have a selection.
These projections are way too early but it is never too soon to get to know whose name might get called on draft night. While predicting what Atlanta will do is seemingly impossible, betting on college upperclassmen and international prospects is very likely. I have kept that focus over the last two years of profiling players but intend to do so even more this season.
[Note: College hoops fans or those who followed Walter Tavares at Gran Canaria may be familiar with former Louisville guard Kyle Kuric. I advocated for Atlanta to bring Kuric in for NBA Summer League in support of Tavares and in hopes of him showing off an elite shooting stroke. Keep Kuric in your thoughts and prayers as he was discovered to have a brain tumor after suffering migraines during a Gran Canaria game this week. Best wishes for the other sharpshooting Kyle and his family.]