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 (er, No. 41). The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down relentless French big man Mathias Lessort.
Beware of passing stereotypical judgment of Mathias Lessort based on playing in the French League and being a European big. If he had a college jersey on in professional games, he would look like an undersized Big East senior who loves physicality and plays with street-worn passion. He is a former teammate of Houston’s Clint Capela and his game is similar. However, Lessort lacks Capela’s length but would arrive in the NBA with a more menacing profile.
Lessort runs the floor as if he was shot out of a gun. While he is a pretty good player in executing pick-and-roll his general approach to the game is: “See ball, get ball, dunk ball.” When he has the ball he mostly considers two things: 1) Can I dunk it? 2) If no, then give it up. He does occasionally step out to take a mid-range shot or use his foot speed to create space around the basket but his primary offensive weapon is attacking the basket.
He is a nightmare on the offensive glass. His vertical jumping is not elite but his ability to get up off the floor quickly multiple times is a nightmare for opponents. When a teammate has the ball, he primarily looks to screen a defender or seal his man away from the basket. Lessort plays with great energy on the offensive end without asking for the basketball. His skill set is limited but within his limitations he brings an overall profile that projects him as an asset to energize an NBA rotation.
Lessort is still learning how to defend professional players who are both skilled and comparably athletic. This will be his biggest challenge at adjusting to the next level and could prevent him playing much in the 2017-18 season. It also may make him a candidate to be stashed for a season as a team helps further his development overseas. He plays defense with the type of effort any developmental person would long for in a project but much of his growth ahead will be adapting his physical gifts to the complexities of the modern game.
Lessort has excellent lateral movement for a big man and in the long run could be a weapon at switching multiple positions on the defensive end. He does show an ability to help in the post without losing contact with his man—a skill even many NBA bigs never acquire. However, he is easily fooled in one-on-one defense by relatively simple fakes or novice ball skills. This will certainly be exposed at the NBA level.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
In a system that demands spacing, Lessort is not a natural fit with the Hawks. He may expand his game over time but for the predictable future he brings a lot of energy with a willingness to expand his game. I love his motor and attitude. His overall persona would bring some toughness to the Hawks without being a locker room problem—something not always easy to find. His profile would be increased if he is willing to spend another season overseas. Lessort is a much stronger prospect than recent Hawks’ stashes.
While Lessort may be an overseas player, he plays like an undersized college veteran who can match the physicality of modern bigs. He may not be more than a 3rd/4th big with athleticism to develop into something more significant with luck and a good fit. The Hawks would have been reaching to take him at No. 31 but the move down to No. 41 (or a move further down or up from No. 60) could make him a nice match if Atlanta already has selected two rookies to compete for roster spots in 2017-18.