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 Baylor big man Johnathan Motley.
Johnathan Motley possesses an incredible amount of length and agility and his skill set started to come along finally during his junior season at Baylor. With that said, he is still a project big man and is already 22 years old. He has moments that make you think there is potentially something special there if could just develop a little more feel and polish. Motley has other moments that make him seem a very long way from being prepared to handle minutes with an NBA team any time soon.
Motley became a very high usage player last season with Baylor and helped make them a top 25 team in terms of offensive efficiency. He did not shy away from offensive responsibility and would keep going at it even when he was not finding consistent success. He is one of the best young players I can remember at being ready to seal a defender and attack as soon as he receives the ball in the low post. But the fact that low post play was his offensive strength is not overly encouraging considering that he is going to get next to zero offensive touches there at the next level.
Motley’s turnover rate increased in each of his collegiate seasons and his overall efficiency regressed from his sophomore to his junior season. He is not a read and react player. When he gets the ball he typically puts his head down and attacks. It looks good when the ball goes through the basket but pretty ugly with any other outcome.
He struggles in the pick and roll action when the result is not either an obviously open jump shot or a lob to him at the rim. Motley does not offer any secondary offensive creation after receiving the ball when shorting or rolling to the rim after the screen. He does not mind contact but the results when there is contact for his to deal with are mixed at best.
The former Big 12 standout’s shooting mechanics look like something that could be worked with. His footwork is pretty consistent and he has a nice high release point. But his overall release is pretty slow and when a player works to speed up a release sometimes the result is that the other mechanics start to fall apart.
Motley is much more exciting prospect on the defensive end of the court. Each draft class typically offers just a handful of players that measure in at 240 pounds and a wingspan of 7’4. When engaged, Motley can cover an incredible amount of defensive territory. He is impressive moving from the paint to the perimeter and recovering to the paint with quickness. He looks comfortable defending smaller players on the perimeter and has the rare length to recover from mistakes and get back into a play.
His defensive production fell off his junior season but that might simply be the result of becoming the highest usage player on the team on the offensive end of the court. He is a better rebounder on the offensive glass but he did improve as a defensive rebounder his last season at Baylor. Motley can get lost in traffic at times and opposing teams will look to take advantage of him in pick and roll action at the next level.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
Motley’s best NBA outcome would likely be as a passable rim protector with a plus ability to operate a high switch defensive scheme. And if he can develop as a decent perimeter shooter he could find a place as fifth big on a roster. The Hawks certainly have a proven track record of developing players in those areas so maybe there is a potential match.
Depending upon how free agency goes for the Hawks, they could have a serious lack of roster depth to deal with at the center and power forward positions. There are not many prospects that offer the physical profile that Motley does such that he could make the most of a couple of years of skill development. I’m not going to be shocked to see him end up with the Hawks although he seems almost surely to be selected in between their current second round selections (#31 and #60).
Someone is going to take a chance on him just based upon his rare physical profile. But he needs to be with one of a handful of organizations that offer the best in terms of skill development. Motley is one of those rare players whose agent might be working behind the scenes on draft night to convince teams that might have interest in selecting him with a higher pick to actually pass on him, if they have a commitment from a team with a later selection that can offer him a stronger developmental situation.