In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down international big man Anzejs Pasecniks.
The Atlanta Hawks have a strong history of selecting international players. While Frank Ntilikina likely to be taken in the top 10—and at least by the end of the lottery, the next international pick could come in the 20s. With 4-5 prospects similarly ranked, the Hawks have a reasonably strong chance to choose an international player at No. 19 or No. 31. Versatile Latvian big man Anzejs Pasecniks could be a target for new GM Travis Schenk at No. 19.
Pasecniks is a 7’2, 229-pound center who remains thin but has added strength over last two season. He is not a “stretch” player yet and it is optimistic to project him being much more than adequate on the perimeter due to his struggles to shoot much more than 60% from the free throw line in his career. Some observers have compared him to Kristaps Porzingis but his offensive skill set is far inferior to what Porzingis profiled at the same age—and the Knicks’ big man has far exceeded his draft profile both in productivity and rapid adaptation to the NBA. However, he shares a significant trait with Porzingis in playing the game with an aggressiveness and willingness to take on contact that is not common among many European bigs.
While still in need of polishing himself in making decisions both in space and while tightly defended, Pasecniks handles the ball unusually well for a big man—and particularly well for a player who is legitimately 7’2. He has shown improvement at finishing with both hands and has consistently improved his footwork in the post. His unusual quickness diving to the rim out of pick-and-roll will be his best offensive asset early in his career. If he becomes adequate from outside then he will be an offensive weapon and an impossible match-up for most NBA players.
Pasecniks may have an even odder profile on the defensive end. His defensive skill level is poorest in the post. His defensive rebounding is woeful. Both of these challenges appear most affected by his lack of strength which could certainly improve over time. However, his defensive instincts in the post are lacking as well. He is easily fooled by fakes and gets caught in the post using his arms to reach rather than moving his feet. These flaws will prevent him from finding early minutes in the NBA.
He is intriguing due to how much space he can cover and flashing unique ability to defend on the perimeter. He legitimately moves better from end-to-end of the basketball court than any player I have seen of his size. With added strength and a small tick upward in instincts, he could become a menacing defender who is able to easily switch on screens and help teammates from every place on the floor. While his defensive profile is most lacking entering the draft, his potential growth on this end is what most makes him an exciting prospect.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
I would not identify Pasecniks as a player that fits a particular need or one that should be expected to make an impact of any significance before 2018-19. However, if you are looking for a potential star with a relatively good floor of being a rotational player, Pasecniks grades out as one of the more likely players outside the lottery to have star potential without being a major risk of being a complete bust. The versatility he brings on both ends of the floor would fit in well with the style of play emphasized by Budenholzer and craved by the Warriors’ personnel department in which Schenk has been a major contributor.
It may be a bit of a reach for Atlanta to take Pasecniks at No. 19 but he grades out as the second best international player on my board and projects to be taken in the mid-20s. With few players available at No. 19 who project as immediate contributors, Pasecniks could be the best option for an Atlanta team looking for some star power. It would be ideal for Pasecniks to spend one more season overseas but that is a rare choice made by first round selections.
Anzejs may be an unpopular choice on draft night if the Hawks take him at No. 19 but the real test is how popular he will be by the end of his rookie contract. Pasecniks is as good a long-term prospect outside of the lottery as any domestic player available. One of the better portions of video on Pasecniks can be found below.