The Atlanta Hawks hold three picks in the 2017 NBA Draft but the first selection of the Travis Schlenk era will not arrive until 18 other picks have been made. It is certainly possible that Schlenk and his staff elect to trade up on Thursday evening but, if they don’t, it becomes rather difficult to know exactly which prospects will be available for Atlanta to choose from at No. 19 overall and especially treacherous when considering picks at No. 41 and No. 60.
With that in mind, there are still interesting (and reasonable) targets for the Hawks and, even if some of them are gone, it is wildly unlikely that everyone will be. Today’s venture is to unearth five prospects that Atlanta should target at No. 19 and this, of course, is the opinion of only one person (me).
Let’s roll through the list, coming to you in alphabetical order, and with the knowledge that I don’t (necessarily) hate your favorite prospect if they aren’t included here.
Disclaimer: Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Duke’s Luke Kennard, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell were not considered for this list given the likelihood that they are unavailable at No. 19.
Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)
Allen has long been a favorite of mine in this space and, while this quintet isn’t in preference order, the former Texas big man would be near the top of my list. Atlanta’s frontcourt is rather barren at the moment and Allen brings a combination of impressive college production (16 points, 10 rebounds per game in Big 12 play) and the upside that teams are looking for in the mid-first round range.
Make no mistake, Allen is not a finished product and there are some holes. Buzz continues that he doesn’t “love basketball” and, while I can’t speak to that, the Hawks certainly will have that information if it proves to be true. Outside of that, Allen isn’t a bruiser at this stage and, even with his athleticism, the youngster struggles in awareness at times on both ends.
On the more positive side, though, Allen is a physical freak with a wingspan north of 7’5 and a 9’2 standing reach. He also has fantastic hands and would excel as a pick-and-roll finisher. On the defensive end, Allen isn’t a polished rim protector at this point but he has the burst needed to maintain effectiveness in pick-and-roll defense eventually and the length needed to project as a big-time deterrent in the lane.
Allen wouldn’t be a “safe” pick but, given what he was able to do as a freshman at Texas, he isn’t quite as risky as some other big men (UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu, for instance) and still brings enough upside to be tantalizing here.
OG Anunoby (SF/PF, Indiana)
I’ll say it. This is my favorite scenario for the Atlanta Hawks.
Until approximately one week ago, Anunoby wasn’t even going to make this list, simply because it felt so incredibly unlikely that he would fall to No. 19. However, there is increasing buzz that Anunoby could slip based on the fact that he wasn’t invited to the NBA Draft “green room” and that would play beautifully into the hands of the Hawks.
Defensively, Anunoby is a potentially transcendent prospect. He measured in at 6’8 with a wingspan of more than 7’2 at the NBA Draft Combine and Anunoby is a wonderful athlete. A knee ailment cost him most of his final season at Indiana but, prior to that, he was generating real buzz as a dominant defender. At the NBA level, Anunoby is probably a combo forward that trends toward the 4 given the way the game is being played. Still, he is a smart positional defender that uses out-of-this-world tools to showcase what could be a package that is almost impossible to duplicate.
On the other end, there are question marks and you would have to expect that given the possibility that he is available at No. 19. The bright side is that Anunoby’s jump shot isn’t broken and “Hawks University” would likely be able to mold him into a functional player in that regard. Still, Anunoby projects more as a power forward because he isn’t dynamic with the ball in his hands right now and probably needs to be put into a strong situation to succeed in the immediate time frame offensively.
Can he become Kawhi Leonard? Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped people from making the comparison. It is wildly unlikely that his offense turns the corner in the way that Leonard’s did for the Spurs. In the same breath, the defensive comparison isn’t nearly as crazy and it would be a lot of fun to pair Anunoby with Taurean Prince in wreaking havoc defensively in a switchable, aggressive scheme.
Jawun Evans (PG, Oklahoma State)
Yes, you’re thinking that the Hawks already have a point guard. They do. Dennis Schröder is locked up for the next four years at a reasonable cost and, with that, it seems that Atlanta has much bigger issues. That’s all true.
However, Schröder was molded by the previous regime and we do not know that he is a priority for the new front office. Beyond that, backup point guard has been a trouble spot since the moment Schröder was elevated and, even if Malcolm Delaney leaps forward in year two (as, frankly, I expect him to do), he’ll be a free agent following the 2017-2018 season.
Enter Jawun Evans. I am ludicrously high on Evans when compared to the consensus and it is his offensive skill set that brings me to the table. He was the engine of a top-flight college offense at Oklahoma State and, despite size concerns (measuring at less than 6’0), Evans will almost certainly be a positive offensive force. He is a terrific passer that can score in the mid-range and shoot from distance, forming a strong combination, especially as a high-end backup.
Defensively, there are some concerns with his frame but Evans competes at a high level. His wingspan (nearly 6’6) is also a big help in providing length that you don’t see coming from the diminutive point guard and, at No. 19 overall, he would be a nice value.
Semi Ojeleye (SF/PF, SMU)
There are many prospects in this range with higher upside than Ojeleye but few can duplicate his level of safety. In fact, parallels can certainly be drawn between a potential investment from the Hawks and what transpired in last year’s draft with the selections of Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry.
Ojeleye stands at 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan and he isn’t a freak athlete. With that said, he is certainly athletic enough to live in the NBA and the former SMU standout came to the combine in fabulous shape with a 5.5 percent body fat. In short, he has an NBA-ready frame and can conceivably function as a combo forward that can play both spots.
As a shooter, Ojeleye was excellent a year ago, knocking down 42.4 percent of his three-point attempts. It isn’t always a given that shooting like that will translate but Ojeleye has a nice, repeatable stroke and he flashed the ability to shoot coming off screens. As a creator, Ojeleye isn’t a fantastic passer but he can get his own shot enough to be a threat and has enjoyed success around the rim as a finisher.
The big draw with Ojeleye, aside from the shooting, is his versatility defensively. He is big and physical at the age of 22 and, while not a big-time athlete, Ojeleye is capable of guarding big wings and functioning against power forwards. That combination is similar to that of Taurean Prince in some ways, though Ojeleye is probably better suited to playing the 4 based on his low center of gravity and strength.
Taking a 22-year-old combo forward may not sit well with some parts of the fan base given what happened one year ago. Still, Ojeleye can add to what Atlanta is building in the middle of the roster, rather than simply duplicating it. Beyond that, his shooting would be a very nice addition to a group that sorely needs it in the future.