On the morning of Feb. 12, FiveThirtyEight projects the Atlanta Hawks to finish in a tie with the Sacramento Kings for the second-worst record in the NBA. Given the lottery process, that does not mean that the Hawks wouldn’t eventually slot into the No. 1 overall draft position but, at this point, there is plenty of uncertainty as to where the Hawks will eventually land.
Given that caveat, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic released an updated NBA Mock Draft (one that is definitely worth the full read) on Monday morning and it places Atlanta in the top spot. That leaves every option on the table for GM Travis Schlenk and, according to this projection, the pick is Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton.
The Hawks are in the market for the best player available to build around for the next decade. While you can make the case that Luka Doncic fits well within their wing-dependent scheme, Deandre Ayton is who this evaluator believes has the highest upside in this draft.
As Vecenie notes (and he isn’t alone), Ayton’s upside might be the deciding factor, even if it would be easy to make a coherent argument for Slovenian wing Luka Doncic based on safety and other factors. Ayton, though, has made the leap into a two-man tier (at least for me) alongside Doncic and the player at the top will greatly depend on the philosophy of the general manager and/or draft evaluator making the choice.
Beyond that, Vecenie breaks down what Ayton can do and the basis by which he shoots to the top of the line.
Ayton not only gives a team a potential 20-and-10 All-Star, but he also keeps open every door available in terms of team-building because of his well-rounded skill set. He’s averaging 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds while shooting almost 62 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3. There are some defensive concerns in terms of instincts, but Ayton has the tools to be a difference maker there, too, if he focuses on that end of the floor.
The numbers and efficiency of Ayton speak for themselves and, unlike Doncic, the freshman big man is in the national consciousness in America based on his college basketball ties. Of course, there will be questions in terms of ultimate fit with Ayton and John Collins in Atlanta’s frontcourt but, as noted above, he is both versatile and dynamic and, given that Collins is not necessarily slotted into a positional role moving forward, the duo would likely succeed.
There are many questions at the top of the draft and, if the Atlanta Hawks perform in similar fashion to what they put forth on Sunday afternoon, the team won’t be picking in the No. 1 spot. If they do end up in pole position, though, the debate will rage for weeks and, at least as of Feb. 12, a trusted voice leans in the direction of Ayton for the Hawks.