The 2015-2016 season is officially over for the Atlanta Hawks, and the 2016 NBA Draft will be the big focus in the coming weeks. We have been chronicling the draft process a bit already, weighing in on a few mock drafts that have emerged, but an interesting name has surfaced this week in the form of Vanderbilt big man Damian Jones.
Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated projects Jones to land in Atlanta with the number 21 overall pick, and he had this to say about the fit:
Even if Al Horford stays in Atlanta, at some point it will make sense to groom a long-term replacement in the middle. Jones was as inconsistent as Baldwin at Vandy, but he's physically impressive, and after watching the Hawks turn Tim Hardaway and Mike Scott into valuable role players, I'm convinced their coaches can do anything.
Without getting bogged down in whether Hardaway Jr. is a "valuable role player", Sharp's point about Atlanta's player development system is well taken, even with the caveat that Kenny Atkinson will no longer be on the staff moving forward. Still, this would be a big project for the Hawks in that Jones is a very raw prospect.
Jones is a legitimate 7-footer at 245 pounds, and he is extremely athletic for his size. However, the big man is extremely raw offensively, and he wasn't as dominant of a rebounder at the college level (6.9 rebounds per game in 26.2 minutes as a junior) as you might expect.
The concept of Atlanta adding a talented rim protector will be enticing to some, but scouts are all over the board when it comes to the prospects of Jones at the next level and the Hawks do have a project in Edy Tavares already. At the same time, it isn't surprising to see Damian Jones linked with Atlanta given his considerable upside, and the "true center" argument will never end.