With the Atlanta Hawks in full rebuilding mode as 2017 training camp looms, there has been plenty of look-ahead discussion to the 2018 NBA Draft. Given Atlanta’s projected performance, the team could be landing near the top of the heap when it comes to draft order and the trio of Jonathan Tjarks, Danny Chau and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer recently plugged the Hawks at No. 2 overall in an “entirely premature” mock.
The team’s prize? Duke freshman big man Marvin Bagley III.
Bagley’s innate gifts inspire comparisons that verge on hyperbole. After he reclassified and landed with Duke in August, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman told SportsCenter that Bagley is “the most talented guy to come out of high school since Anthony Davis.” He’s a new-age big man who can play both ends of the floor outside-inside, rather than the inverse. What you see in his game is a Rorschach test for your favorite star power forward of the early aughts. His father once took his likeness even further back in time: When his son was a high school freshman, the elder Bagley shared pictures with a reporter looking to write a story on the young phenom— a side-by-side comparison of his son and a young Lew Alcindor.
That’s an awful lot to live up to, and Bagley will have to answer some questions during his time in Durham. Can his explosiveness and tenacity overshadow his less-than-stellar length and high center of gravity? Can he consistently score from the perimeter, or are his outside skills just a collage of conveniently edited highlights? Bagley will have a high burden of proof, but he is cut from a perfect template for the modern big. NBA teams are counting down the days until he gets his first minutes of NCAA action.
European wing Luka Doncic was the first player off the board (to Chicago) in this mock but this would be the Hawks choosing Bagley III over Michael Porter Jr. of Missouri, Miles Bridges of Michigan State and many more. Bagley is a new addition to the freshman class after a successful reclassification effort but, make no mistake, the 6’11 super-athlete certainly has the skills necessary to join the discussion.
Every “way too early” caveat should apply here but it is tough not to dream about a prospect of Bagley III’s caliber landing in Atlanta for the future. Training camp is near.