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NBA Draft 2016: Atlanta Hawks linked to NCAA Player of the Year front-runner

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It is never too early for NBA Draft chatter, and the Hawks were linked to a high-profile college player in a mock.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks are off to a bit of a slow start to the 2015-2016 season, and because of that, many people are looking ahead to the future. With that as the backdrop, Chad Ford of ESPN Insider released his "Mock Draft 2.0" this week, and the Hawks were linked to Michigan State forward Denzel Valentine.

Valentine, who is currently seen as the front-runner for NCAA Player of the Year honors, was projected to land in Atlanta with the 24th overall pick, and this is what Ford had to say:

Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha take the bulk of the minutes at the 2 for the Hawks, but both are on the wrong side of 30 and Atlanta could use an injection of life at the wing. Valentine lacks elite athleticism, but he has become a triple-double machine as a senior and should fit right in with the Hawks' culture.

There are pros and cons to a "low upside" pick like this. Valentine would likely be able to contribute right away, to the extent that any mid-tier rookie can, and he is averaging 18.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists as a college senior for a reason. However, the Hawks went the route of experience when selecting another Michigan State product in Adreian Payne, and that pick quickly flamed out before he was dealt to Minnesota for a future asset.

It is (way) too early to get bogged down in specifics with regard to the Atlanta Hawks and a draft plan. Still, it will be interesting to see if they go with a seasoned player like Valentine or a high-upside choice. Much of that decision will be linked to where the Hawks actually pick in the first round, but we can now recklessly speculate about Denzel Valentine putting on a uniform highlighted in volt green.