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NBA Mock Draft 2018: Atlanta Hawks linked to DeAndre Ayton in first ESPN look

It’s never too early.

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In the immediate aftermath of the 2017 NBA Draft, the internet was flooded with obscenely early looks at the 2018 class from a mock draft perspective. As the 2017-2018 approaches, the early glances are less obscene in nature and, on Tuesday, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (formerly of DraftExpress) released his first mock draft for 2018.

This reveal comes on the heels of top prospect Marvin Bagley III announcing on Monday that he would reclassify and join this year’s crop, further bolstering an already strong group at the top. With that in mind, the ESPN mock pegs the Hawks to land the No. 3 overall pick and select Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton.

Ayton has elite physical tools, standing 7 feet tall with a 7-foot-5.5 wingspan and an excellent frame. He also is fairly skilled offensively, showing potential as a finisher and jump-shooter. NBA scouts question his motor and defensive awareness, things they'll be monitoring closely at Arizona.

In this scenario, Bagley III (who is headed to Duke) and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. are off the board, leaving the Hawks to choose from Ayton and Slovenian wing Luka Doncic. In addition, two returning college players (Robert Williams of Texas A&M and Miles Bridges of Michigan State) are in the mix but, for the most part, it is seen as a four-player tier at the top with Bagley III included.

Obviously, it is far too early to get bogged down in the minutiae of things here but Ayton is an elite talent that would look tremendous in a Hawks uniform. Motor questions are never ideal for a prospect at this age but, if Ayton performs well at Arizona, he could certainly be in the mix to be chosen this high or even closer to the top overall spot.

The grand takeaway at this point is that Bagley III joining the fray makes this class deeper and, if the Hawks struggle as many predict, this will be something to keep an eye on throughout the campaign. Stay tuned.