The Atlanta Hawks were not involved in the lottery process in advance of the 2016 NBA Draft, but now that the order is set, mock draft season is officially here. We have been keeping a close eye on mocks in the early stages of draft preparation, but on Wednesday, the floodgates opened and an intriguing name surfaced with regard to Atlanta.
Though there are mixed feelings about the Hawks potentially targeting a "true center", Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com projects Atlanta to end up with Maryland center Diamond Stone in his first pass at the mock process:
Stone built a case for the teens, and was in the lottery conversation earlier in the season, despite a relatively limited role early as a part-time starter who averaged 22.6 minutes. He turned 19 on Feb. 10 and already has NBA size as a true center, while also moving well with a large frame. That is the obvious selling point. Meanwhile, his defense is improving.
Stone isn't a top-of-the-line athlete like teams may prefer in their rim-protecting big men in 2016, but the 19-year-old center does present very nice size. He measured in at more than 6-foot-10 (with a 7-foot-2 wingspan) and 250 pounds at the NBA Draft combine, and with only one collegiate season under his belt with the Terrapins, there is plenty of room for growth.
He is a very skilled big man in terms of scoring around the basket, and that manifested with 12.5 points (on 57% shooting) in fewer than 23 minutes per game at Maryland. Of course, there are flaws in his game that allow Stone to reasonably fall into Atlanta's range, and they range from questions about his motor and work ethic back to his lack of big-time athleticism that could be an issue in today's fast-moving, pace-and-space style of play.
As we regularly stress in this space, it is still too early to get worked up over potential names linked to the Hawks, but Diamond Stone does fit the profile of what many Atlanta supporters would like to see in a future center. That alone makes him an interesting topic of discussion. Stay tuned.