It’s no secret that the Atlanta Hawks are expected by many to finish near the bottom of the NBA at the end of the 2017-18 season. The Hawks have completely gutted their roster that was a playoff team a season ago and has begun to rebuild with youth and some veterans on one-year deals.
Atlanta seems to have a strong young nucleus with great potential after drafting Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry in 2016 and adding John Collins and Tyler Dorsey in the 2017 NBA draft. The Hawks are currently slated to have three (!) first round picks in the 2018 draft (if all three convey) and will look to build upon that arsenal further with some trades along the way.
For now, however, here are some “way too early” 2018 NBA draft targets for the franchise.
Hawks in the lottery
The Hawks are projected to finish with the second-worst record in the NBA with just 26 wins (Westgate), which is fine because it suits what the Hawks are looking to do. Under new GM Travis Schlenk, the Hawks seem to be looking to find that Golden State mold of building a team by hitting on impact players in the lottery and keeping financial flexibility along the way.
The team will seemingly be content with playing down this year and gaining a top draft pick while also getting their young guns some valuable bonding time on the court in Mike Budenholzer’s system. So, with the Hawks being projected to have the second worst record, I will be going over the top five prospects in the 2018 Draft, as it seems the Hawks will be picking somewhere in there.
Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. could have reasonably been selected number one in the 2017 draft, he’s that good, but he seems to be the odds-on favorite to be the number one pick in 2018. He’s got great size at 6’10” and 215 pounds and is a constant threat on offense with the ability to shoot the three and drive past guys with super-athletic finishing ability. In short, Porter Jr. is forecast to become a superstar at the next level and certainly looks to be a one-and-done out of Missouri.
Porter might be a reach for the Hawks because, being under coach Bud, there’s always the possibility that they outplay their peripherals but he is still a possibility.
Marvin Bagley was previously Scout.com’s number one prospect for 2019 before applying for reclassification and signing with Duke to play a year ahead of schedule. Since his reclassification into the 2018 class, Bagley has been battling atop the boards with Porter Jr. for the title of number one prospect.
Bagley is 6’11” and 235 pounds and is more athletic than Porter, can play above the rim and will have a chance to enter the league a full year younger. Bagley has a passable jump shot and has said already that Duke is focused on improving his jumper which will be critical for success at the next level.
He is already a great pick and roll defender and can switch onto almost any position. Bagley is the more raw prospect but, if anything, it seems like he has the higher ceiling of the two.
The Hawks will keep a close eye on Bagley as most of their centers are signed to short term deals and Bagley would fit well into a Budenholzer scheme with improvement of his jump shot.
DeAndre Ayton is a large human being at 7’0” and 245 pounds with a wingspan among the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dwight Howard (sore spot I know). Unlike most guys his size, he is agile around the basket with great touch and actually has a decent jumpshot.
Ayton can run the floor and block shots while switching on defense without problem due to his great footwork. He is a freak athlete and resembles a lot of Boogie Cousins minus the attitude and should have most NBA clubs drooling for the chance to take him.
He is slotted at three but don’t be surprised if he goes first or second because polished big men with post moves and jumpers are highly sought after in today’s NBA.
One of the most talked about international prospects in a while, Luka Doncic has been a major part of Real Madrid’s senior team for a couple of years now. He averaged 15.8 points, 7 assists and 9.3 boards per game in 35 Euroleague games in 2017.
Doncic plays great defense already and, with his size at 6’8” and 190 pounds, can switch on and off between PGs, SGs and SFs. He is listed as a two-guard but could play the three without problem.
The Hawks are always looking for defenders that can switch and handle the ball on the wing, throw in the fact that he’s lights out from three and the Hawks will have to take a hard look if he is available when their pick comes up.
This is my sleeper pick to be on the Hawks radar in 2018. Miles Bridges will be one of the few top lottery picks who isn’t a one-and-done next year and will need to make some improvements this year at Michigan State if he wants to be a top-five pick.
Bridges can really jump and has incredible timing for blocking shots and is deceptively athletic inside a 6’6”, 230-pound build. He has shown the ability to knock down the three but will need to improve his shooting in all aspects if he is to be in the top five.
If he were to drop a little weight it’s possible that he could play the three without question. Bridges probably will be on the Hawks radar solely for his defensive ability but if he adds to his jump shot it is very possible they would select him in a top spot.
Other 2018 Hawks Picks
- The Hawks also managed to pick up Houston’s first round pick (via LA) by taking on the contract of Jamal Crawford which is predicted to convey based on their moves this off-season. As long as Houston makes the playoffs, the Hawks will take over their first round pick. With Houston being a power house in the West, however, it seems that this pick will most likely be in the 25-30 range towards the end of the draft. The top prospects for this range are unclear at this time and it will have to be closer to the draft before we see who is around this late in the first round.
- When Atlanta traded Hawks legend Adreian Payne in 2015, the fan base was enraged (slight exaggeration) but fear not, as it seems the first round pick they acquired for him is likely to convey in 2018 with Minnesota trading for Jimmy Butler in the off-season. This pick is interesting because it could be in the late teens to the early twenties depending on how well Minnesota’s new team gels together. It is possible a few names that slip to the late teens are Justin Jackson (the other one) out of Maryland, Nick Richards out of Kentucky and Kevin Knox out of Kentucky.
It is quite possible the Hawks also sell at the trading deadline for more picks sending out some of the guys on one-year deals that have no future with the team that can contribute elsewhere. One thing is for certain, in 2018 the Hawks will be a young team and for sure fun to watch as Mike Budenholzer tries to regrow his team basketball culture in Atlanta that has been tarnished since the Hawks magical 60-win season.