As the 2017 NBA Draft approaches, I have made the argument that the Atlanta Hawks should draft for upside, especially when compared to the option to draft for need. Most NBA rookies are not capable of making sizable contributions in year one (hello, Taurean Prince!) and, at some point, the Hawks must acquire players that have the ability to transform the roster.
However, Mike Budenholzer’s team still has a glaring need in the area of long-range shooting and, if you are a proponent of focusing on the 2017-2018 season, you might like what The Ringer projects with the No. 19 overall pick. That selection, at least for now, would be the Hawks picking up Duke guard Luke Kennard.
As noted above, Kennard is a high-end shooter and, frankly, he is probably the best shooter in this entire class. The 6’5 shooting guard converted nearly 44 percent of his three-point attempts as a sophomore and, given that he was also a primary facilitator in Durham, that is an impressive feat.
However, Kennard’s development in non-shooting areas is what has helped to make him a legitimate first-round talent. He isn’t a big-time athlete and, because of that (and a limited wingspan), Kennard probably won’t be a plus defender at any point. Still, the soon-to-be 21-year-old can serve as a secondary ball-handler that can make plays for others and, in the end, provide spacing that NBA teams covet in a big way.
In terms of fit, it is a mixed bag for the Hawks. As noted above, Kennard would be the best shooter on the roster immediately and this is a team starved for floor space as currently constructed. With that said, Atlanta invested two first-round selections last season with wings and the team has Kent Bazemore under contract, with Tim Hardaway Jr. facing restricted free agency.
In the end, this isn’t a pick that makes a ton of sense if and when the Hawks bring the aforementioned foursome back on the wing. If they don’t, though, Atlanta could pick up a strong role player for the future and Kennard is a much “safer” option than some of the project big men referenced in mock drafts around the internet.