The Atlanta Hawks are in the midst of what will hopefully be a long playoff run, but with the end of the regular season brings prep work for the upcoming 2015 NBA Draft. Atlanta will swap draft picks with the Brooklyn Nets by virtue of the Joe Johnson trade and will have the No. 15 selection of the first round. Atlanta also holds a pair of second round picks at No. 50 and No. 59 overall.
The draft combine will be held on May 12-17 so the Draft frenzy is just beginning. ESPN.com draft analyst Chad Ford gets the process started with a new format for his initial mock draft. Instead of using insider intel for his initial mock, Ford plays GM and makes each selection with his own view and team needs in mind.
With the 15th pick, Ford has Atlanta taking Arizona guard/forward Stanley Johnson:
The Hawks benefit from the Nets' decision to hand over the farm in exchange for Joe Johnson and of all the actual assets they received (their biggest by far was cap flexibility) this might be the one they cash in on. If Johnson is on the board (or Sam Dekker) they've got a shot to upgrade at the 3 with an 18-year-old. Very few teams with the best record in their conference would ever have such an opportunity. And while I'm not sold that Johnson is a star, I do think he's going to be in the league a long time and would be perfect on a team that's competing for a championship.
Ford lists Atlanta's needs at small forward and center. The Hawks have a couple of internal options for the frontcourt in Mike Muscala and the possible addition of 2014 second round pick Walter Tavares. Would not be at all surprising to see them go after a wing in the first round.
Johnson had a solid freshman season and helped the Wildcats reach the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds on 45 percent shooting. He knocked down 37 percent of his three-point attempts. He measured out at 6-8 in shoes according to DraftExpress and has a strong body with good wingspan.
Here is a look at Johnson's strengths according to a scouting report via Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress:
In the second round, Ford targets UC Santa Barbara's Alan Williams and Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan.
Williams reminds me a bit of a young Paul Millsap. Teams wrote off Millsap for four years because he was undersized and lacked conditioning, but ignored the fact that he somehow found a way to outrebound everyone in the country. Williams has averaged 10.7. 11.5 and 11.8 RPG the past three seasons, all in about 30 minutes per game. And his shot-blocking and steal numbers point to the fact that while he's not very tall, his crazy long arms (he has a 7-2 wingspan) make up for much of it. As for Hanlan, he's another intriguing underclassman who, if he can make the transition to point guard, could end up being a great value pick for the Hawks.
It is hard to predict the second round at this point and I would not be surprised if Atlanta targeted players to stash overseas. Williams' rebounding numbers are impressive and his wingspan make him intriguing. Hanlan is equally intriguing if he can make the transition to point guard. At this point in the draft, Atlanta will be looking for value with their second round picks.