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Atlanta Hawks linked to ‘Karl-Anthony Towns-esque big man’ in 2018 NBA mock draft

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Well, this is a ringing endorsement.

FloSports: FloHoops City of Palms Basketball Classic- Tournament Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It is still (very) early when it comes to the 2018 NBA Draft, especially given the fact that the 2017-2018 college basketball season isn’t yet underway. Still, there is plenty of reason to monitor the proceedings from the perspective of the Atlanta Hawks and a new mock draft paints an interesting picture

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report links Arizona freshman big man DeAndre Ayton with Atlanta at No. 3 overall and, while the specifics aren’t particularly important at this stage, his breakdown is quite interesting. In short, the ceiling feels immense for Ayton, including a comparison to Karl-Anthony Towns when it comes to being the complete package.

The Atlanta Hawks could look at DeAndre Ayton as their next anchor to build around in the middle.

He has the potential to check all of the boxes scouts look for in today's centers. Listed at 7'1" and 250 pounds with a 7'5 ½" wingspan, Ayton is a presence around the basket, but he's also a skilled shot-maker away from it, with a jumper that extends out to the three-point arc.

We could be talking about a full-package, Karl-Anthony Towns-esque big man who's capable of scoring in the post, from the short corners or from three as a spot-up or pick-and-pop weapon.

Towns is, of course, a dynamic building block for Minnesota and he was seen as a much safer pick than Ayton appears to be right now. Still, the questions with Ayton come largely on the defensive end, which is another area in which he may be similar to the Minnesota big man.

At Arizona, he'll have to show he can consistently serve as a defensive intimidator. Ayton's energy and awareness aren't always the strongest, but his tools were built for rim protection. He'll have the chance to be a two-way stretch 5 and a walking double-double.

Make no mistake, Towns is much more skilled and polished offensively than Ayton and his motor was less of a question. In the same breath, it is impossible not to be seduced by Ayton’s combination of size, explosiveness, fluidity and upside and buzz from Arizona indicates that he may be moving beyond the high school effort and consistency concerns.

At the moment, European wing Luka Doncic is building a consensus as the No. 1 player in this class but there is a lot of basketball to be played between now and June. Ayton may not “pop” in the way that some believe he could but, if it all comes together, the Hawks could be considering him with a top-five pick in a few months.