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NBA Rookie Week: Walter Tavares still a work in progress

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Walter Tavares hasn't had a big impact for the Atlanta Hawks during his rookie season but he still could play a big part in the team's future. We take a closer look as part of SB Nation's NBA Rookie Week.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Like his teammate Lamar Patterson, Atlanta Hawks rookie center Walter Tavares isn't your typical NBA rookie given that he was a second round pick in the 2014 Draft and spent the 2015 season playing in Spain for Gran Canaria.

After a standout season in Spain, Tavares drew the attention of several big name European clubs who were rumored to be offering long and lucrative contracts. That likely forced the Hawks to act and they inked Tavares to a very team-friendly deal this past summer.

Tavares can still be labeled as a project, but he has shown flashes of his potential in what has been sporadic playing time. He has appeared in just 11 games with the Hawks averaging 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds.

Tavares is currently on assignment in the NBA D-League and that is where the bulk of his minutes have come this season. There, Tavares is averaging 10.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Early on he was plagued by foul trouble but has done a better job of late of moving his feet on the defensive end which has enabled him to stay on the floor longer.

When you first look at Tavares, the biggest thing that jumps out at you is his overall size. At 7-3 with a very large wingspan, he presents a number of possibilities at the center position. Even with that size, he is not really a plodder and transitions from offense to defense well. He has a soft touch around the rim and has proven to be a solid free throw shooter in Spain and in the D-League.

Tavares didn't start playing basketball until a few years ago so he is still learning some of the game's intricacies. Going forward he needs to focus on his body and get stronger to battle guys in the post at the NBA level but must remain light enough on his feet to be an adequate defender in pick and roll situations. The NBA in today's time isn't an easy place for a guy like Tavares but he seems to have the tools to succeed.

The plan was never for Tavares to play a lot in the 2016 season. That is why the Hawks went out and acquired Kris Humphries after Tiago Splitter was lost for the season rather than giving Tavares a bigger role. This summer will be an important one for his development and with some work, he could find himself in the mix as early as next season.