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NBA Draft 2016: Remembering the history of the 21st overall pick

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The Hawks hold the 21st pick, and we look to history for a barometer of what to expect.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks hold the number 21 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. First round selections always come with some level of expectation, but after the 2015 draft came and went without the Hawks tabbing a prospect from the draft class (hello, Tim Hardaway Jr.), this year's pick may face even greater scrutiny.

Still, the Hawks are not exactly dealing from a position of strength. The 2016 class is universally thought to be "down" from the 2015 group, and while there are two "elite"  prospects in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the remainder of this draft looks to be of the "hit and miss" variety.

In order to bring some context (and reasonable expectations) to the mix, here is a snapshot of the last twenty players selected with the 21st overall pick:

  • 2015 - Justin Anderson
  • 2014 - Mitch McGary
  • 2013 - Gorgui Dieng
  • 2012 - Jared Sullinger
  • 2011 - Nolan Smith
  • 2010 - Craig Brackins
  • 2009 - Darren Collison
  • 2008 - Ryan Anderson
  • 2007 - Daequan Cook
  • 2006 - Rajon Rondo
  • 2005 - Nate Robinson
  • 2004 - Pavel Podkolzine
  • 2003 - Boris Diaw
  • 2002 - Qyntel Woods
  • 2001 - Brendan Haywood
  • 2000 - Morris Peterson
  • 1999 - Jeff Foster
  • 1998 - Ricky Davis
  • 1997 - Anthony Parker
  • 1996 - Dontae Jones

That is certainly an up and down group.

There are active NBA role players in the mix with Sullinger, Dieng and Collison, with one definite star (Rondo) from the past and an above-average player (Anderson) on the verge of a huge free agent contract. However, there are ugly picks with players like Smith, Brackins, Woods, Jones and Podkolzine and even a more recent pick (McGary) has failed to gain traction in the league to this point.

What does this mean? Well, the Hawks probably aren't getting an upper-tier player with this pick. As we have seen, it is possible to acquire such a player, but for every Rajon Rondo, there are multiple athletes who never progress beyond role/bench player status during their time in the league.

The 2016 class has a few "boom or bust" candidates that could be available in Atlanta's range, with Cheick Diallo, Thon Maker, Stephen Zimmerman or even Wade Baldwin, but there are others who would be much safer. There are different schools of thought, but if searching for more immediate contributors, names like DeAndre Bembry, Taurean Prince, Brice Johnson or even Tyler Ulis could be in play.

With more than two weeks remaining until the 2016 NBA Draft, there is plenty to dissect, but keeping the expectations for the 21st pick in context could come in handy.