The Atlanta Hawks encounter a very interesting situation in the 2017 NBA Draft. Because the team holds two picks within 12 spots of each other at No. 19 and No. 31, there is a wide swath of players that could be in consideration at both slots. There are some players that will almost certainly be gone before No. 31 that could be available at No. 19 but, for the most part, the first pick will be the focus of this post.
In short, Atlanta’s decision at No. 19 is a treacherous one because there are a plethora of big men likely to be available and very little in the way of perimeter talent. Guard prospects like Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans and Colorado’s Derrick White are quite intriguing and, as far as wings are concerned, there are positives to players like North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and former Arizona commit Terrance Ferguson.
With all of that said, it is tough to pinpoint players that are reasonably available that the Hawks should absolutely avoid. A lot of big men (Caleb Swanigan, Jordan Bell, Justin Patton, Tony Bradley, etc.) would be rough picks at No. 19 overall but the general consensus is that they would be perfectly reasonable at No. 31 and it is hard to argue. In this space, though, we’ll be taking on a few players that either won’t slip to 31 in all likelihood and/or shouldn’t be in the mix for either choice.
Should Atlanta invest the No. 19 pick in Tyler Lydon, Ivan Rabb or Frank Jackson? No, but that doesn’t mean they should be off the board entirely. Context is king for this evaluation but that brings us to three players that the Hawks should avoid on Thursday evening.
Ike Anigbogou (C, UCLA)
As noted above, this is the perfect storm of a player that isn’t likely to last to No. 31 but shouldn’t be taken at No. 19. If, for some reason, Anigbogu was on the board at No. 31 and the Hawks did not invest in a pure center at No. 19, sign me up. That, however, doesn’t seem likely.
There is a growing sentiment that Atlanta should take a close look at the one-and-done big man and it is easy to see why. He is 6’10 with a 7’6 wingspan and, with a five percent body fat, it appears as if Anigbogu was built to play center. He has a big-time ceiling as a rim protector and rebounder if everything goes according to plan and comparisons to Houston Rockets big man Clint Capela make a lot of sense in some ways.
With that said, we don’t know a ton about Anigbogu. Based on the depth ahead of him at UCLA, he was only a bit player and didn’t have a chance to display what could be some hidden skills. Still, Anigbogu is simply a project type that doesn’t project as much offensively and, when compared to the likes of Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton and Bam Adebayo, it is tough to see him outshining his peers unless the defense is absolutely off the charts.
At No. 31, the risk/reward proposition swings to a favorable spot but investing the No. 19 pick in Anigbogu would be a hiccup in my view. There’s just too much we don’t know.
Isaiah Hartenstein (PF/C, Germany)
There are several big men in this class, headlined by Wake Forest’s John Collins, that are tough to favorably project on the defensive end. Hartenstein falls into that category. Can he protect the rim at a high level? I sincerely doubt it based on the available information. Can he defend in space at the power forward position in a way that will be required in today’s NBA? Again, I sincerely doubt it.
It should be noted that Hartenstein does profile as a potentially gifted offensive player. His passing pops on tape and there is enough skill around the rim to warrant a look at No. 31. With that said, the defensive concerns are large enough to where I can’t imagine investing in Hartenstein given the projection required to see his offense in a light bright enough to outshine those limitations.
Hartenstein isn’t widely projected as a consideration for the No. 19 pick but, as the No. 2 International player available after Frank Ntilikina, the buzz could be there. I’d pass.
T.J. Leaf (PF, UCLA)
Remember the defensive issues for Hartenstein? Well, they also exist with Leaf. The difference, though, is that Leaf is very likely to be gone before the Hawks pick again at No. 31 and, at No. 19, it’s a non-starter for me.
Offensively, Leaf is a lot of fun. The 6’10 power forward was involved in a big-time offense at UCLA and, frankly, that has probably led to Leaf being overrated. Still, he is highly skilled with a nice, smooth jump shot and the ability to pass out of both the post and the elbow. Leaf can also score efficiently and doesn’t really take anything off the table on that end of the floor.
With that said, Leaf was objectively bad defensively at the college level and it isn’t likely to improve. Unlike Hartenstein, Leaf doesn’t have the pure size/bulk to even function at center in the NBA and, unless a lot of development occurs, he is the prototypical power forward that is greatly hurt by the league’s movement toward small-ball and combo forwards operating at the position.
At No. 31, a gamble on Leaf’s offense as a role player in the future would be interesting and defensible but, as noted above, he isn’t likely to be available. At No. 19, teams are looking for a potential starter and/or high-end rotation player and, given the defensive question marks, Leaf doesn’t look like one for me.