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 installment centers on Duke big man Harry Giles.
Players with elite talent don’t always succeed. This is a given fact in the NBA, and players who are drafted in the opening picks of the draft often fail to meet their high expectations. In some cases, players even see their draft stock fall long before that night though, and this has been the story with former Duke big man Harry Giles.
Giles was, at one point, seen as one of the top prospects in the nation. Now, he is seen as a complete wild card by virtue of a star-crossed health record. After two knee injuries and a less-than-impressive season at Duke, Giles enters the draft as one of the most compelling and risky players this season.
This is where the Hawks come in. With the No. 19 and 31 picks, Atlanta will most likely (thought not certainly) have a chance to draft Giles if the team wants to. Most experts see him as someone who could be picked in the middle to end of the first round. I would be surprised if Giles is gone by the nineteenth pick, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he is even still available at 31.
To draft Giles though, teams have to decide how much risk they’re willing to take on. If he were an average player, or merely slightly above, this question might have a much simpler answer. Since Giles has the potential to be a very good player in the NBA though, he demands a closer look from wary teams. His injury-riddled, one-year college career makes a statistical evaluation difficult, but his impressive athleticism projects well for the NBA.
On one hand, Giles doesn’t seem like the type of player that the Hawks have selected in recent drafts. Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry — last year’s first-round picks — both projected as low-risk prospects with relatively low ceilings due to their age. Prince has exceeded most projections thus far, but the rationale that led to his selection seems unlikely to fit a player with Giles’ risk.
On the other hand though, Atlanta has a new General Manager now, which could lead to a much different draft philosophy. Travis Schlenk may try to make a splash with his first selection, and may see Giles as the best player available with the nineteenth pick. This is all speculation of course, but it seems reasonable to say that new front office personnel could easily lead to a different draft rationale.
Ultimately, the most compelling reason to draft Giles is that he will almost certainly be the player with the highest ceiling when he is ultimately selected. His best-case scenario, if it works out, is much higher than many of his peers. It’s difficult to draft high-impact players in the second half of the first round, and the Duke star will most likely have much more raw talent and athleticism than the players drafted around him.
At the same time, though, it’s entirely possible that he never plays meaningful minutes in the NBA. It’s hard to say which scenario is more likely. Some players can make full recoveries from bad knee injuries, and some are never the same. Giles would still be a good prospect with slightly decreased athleticism, but his durability is a giant question mark right now.
In many ways, it’s almost heartbreaking to see players like Giles. He is, by all accounts, a hard worker with a good attitude, and he has the type of athleticism that few can match. In essence, he has all the tools to make a successful career in the league, but may never be able to overcome his injuries. In any evaluation of a young player, it’s important to recognize how much draft night will affect his future as a human being.
As far as the Hawks go, Giles may be the most interesting player on the board. After a long history of “safe” draft picks, it might be time to swing for the fences and take a chance on a player with incredible risk. But it’s much easier to argue this from behind a computer screen, and I fully understand that the team may balk at the prospect of drafting a player with such a worrisome injury history. If Giles is available at 19 or 31 though, Atlanta will have an interesting decision to make.