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NBA Draft 2017: Atlanta Hawks shoot for offense, come away with quality

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The Hawks went looking for offense on Thursday night.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Virginia Tech vs Wake Forest Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks stayed put on Thursday evening, making the three picks (at No. 19, No. 41 and No. 60) that they were assigned prior to the opening bell. New GM Travis Schlenk elected to deploy the Dwight Howard trade hours before the draft arrived and, in the process, backpedaled ten spots in the second round. With the ammunition remaining, though, the Hawks had every opportunity to come away with a solid return and they did just that.

Atlanta’s first pick, Wake Forest big man John Collins at No. 19, was a bargain in that many believed Collins would be off the board before the Hawks had a chance to pounce. It is easy to see why that might be, as Collins led the country in PER as a sophomore and he did so against ACC competition.

Offensively, Collins is a player who uses force and skill around the rim to generate efficiency and that should translate well at the next level. There could be a concern that his lack of pure length (6’10 with a 6’11 wingspan) could cause a period of adjustment when finishing over NBA athletes but Collins displays a high basketball IQ that should aid in that process.

Pure post players are not necessarily in vogue in today’s NBA but Collins averaged nearly 20 points per game while playing less than 27 minutes per game in Winston-Salem. That is off the charts production and, when paired with a tremendous rebound rate (north of 20 percent), it is very easy to see what the Hawks see in Collins’ game.

With that said, his offense game isn’t perfect. "One of the first things we're going to work with him on is a jump shot,” Schlenk said after drafting Collins on Thursday. “If you watched him play in college, all of his scoring came in the post and he's got a good post game. We just need to extend his range out. Especially with the way we play and the way the league is going."

At the moment, Collins is a virtual non-shooter and, given his other limitations, it will be imperative that he develops that weapon. It would be a stunner if the 19-year-old became a legitimate three-point threat but, given the mechanics of his shot and a 74.5 percent clip at the free throw line, mid-range development should be attainable.

Defensively, Collins was frankly a mess at the college level and that is easily the biggest concern with the pick. On the bright side, there are no apparent concerns with his motor and, after the pick, both Schlenk and Collins referenced a directive from Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning to avoid foul trouble and how that could have affected his overall performance.

Collins produced in the bottom ten percent as a post defender at the college level, though, and that came in stark contrast to his uber-elite production offensively in the same regard. Mike Budenholzer and company could provide the best possible scenario for a player like Collins to develop defensively, though, and that brings a bit of hope to the table despite the lack of length and performance on that end.

Tyler Dorsey, Atlanta’s second round pick from Oregon at No. 41, brings about similar strengths and weakness, albeit in a lower-tier player. The 6’5 shooting guard is not known for his force defensively and Schlenk made a point to reference the need to get stronger, especially on that end of the floor. It should be noted, though, that Dorsey is not a complete mess defensively (at least from an effort standpoint) and he is good enough athletically to potentially peak as an average defender.

On the other end, Dorsey shines as a scorer and efficient shooter. At Oregon, he displayed incredible shot-making skills and that came to the forefront in what was a dominant NCAA Tournament performance that almost certainly helped his NBA Draft stock.

Dorsey converted more than 42 percent of his threes while posting a true shooting percentage of more than 60 percent as a sophomore. Beyond that, Schlenk made it clear that the front office views Dorsey as a quality “secondary ballhandler” and that is a role that Atlanta has struggled with mightily in the recent past when trying to take the heat off the point guard position and, particularly, Dennis Schröder.

Candidly, there were players available at both No. 19 and No. 41 that I would have preferred for the Hawks and they would have slanted (especially in the first round) more toward the defensive end of the floor. With that said, both Collins and Dorsey were very appropriate picks in terms of value and, for a team that struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball in 2016-2017, it is easy to see why the Hawks would want to shoot for improvement in that facet.

“Hawks University” is a popular term to describe Atlanta’s player development center and, to a certain extent, that type of outlet is vital to aiding any incoming rookie. Neither Collins nor Dorsey can be considered nearly as raw as some one-and-done draft prospects but, in the same breath, there are defined weaknesses for both that can be tweaked and ultimately fixed through coaching and individual growth.

In the end, the Atlanta Hawks added two competent, talented basketball players during the 2017 NBA Draft and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We will learn more in the future, beginning with the Las Vegas Summer League, but in the hours following the selection process, it feels like a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned.