With the 2018 NCAA Tournament on the horizon, there is increased attention on the college basketball world from coast to coast. For fans of the Atlanta Hawks, however, there was already plenty of incentive to evaluate future NBA players at the college level and, with that in mind, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony released an updated 2018 mock draft on the eve of March Madness.
At this point in the draft process, everything is almost pure speculation when it comes to team fit but, with the No. 3 overall pick, the Hawks tabbed Michigan State freshman big man Jaren Jackson Jr. in this scenario.
The youngest prospect in the draft, Jackson may have the highest ceiling of anyone in this class in terms of his ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor. He has enviable physical tools, including a 7-4 wingspan and tremendous mobility. Jackson’s ability to space the floor (40 percent from 3, 80 percent from the line), block shots (5.7 per 40 minutes), switch on every screen and, increasingly, put the ball on the floor from the perimeter make him an ideal fit for the modern NBA.
It’s easy to see Jackson manning the center position for Atlanta or pairing with exciting rookie big man John Collins in an athletic frontcourt.
Jackson Jr.’s defensive upside is off the charts and, even if he doesn’t have the dominant offensive numbers typical of a top-three pick, the two-way value he could theoretically provide would be unfathomably valuable. With that said, fans will almost certainly recoil at the thought of selecting someone in Jackson Jr.’s mold here, especially with names like Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. still available.
Elsewhere, the Hawks rounded out their trio of picks with two additional players from Power 5 (i.e. major conference) squads. With the No. 22 pick (via Minnesota), the Hawks added Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop and, at No. 30 overall, Atlanta picks up Duke guard Grayson Allen.
The ESPN mock indicates that “Bates-Diop has increased his stock dramatically with a breakout season” and that is undoubtedly true for a player that few saw joining the first round conversation. Atlanta has been woefully short on true combo forward options in the recent past and, even if Bates-Diop isn’t overly sexy, his utility could prove to be useful.
As for Allen, the Duke guard is perhaps the most famous player at the back-end of the first round discussion and ESPN indicates that he “is one of the best shooters/scores in the college game.” That would be Allen’s primary value but the question with the college veteran would be whether he can hold up enough defensively to join a full-time NBA rotation.
Obviously, there are a number of ways the 2018 NBA Draft could go for the Atlanta Hawks and (literally) dozens of players that are in play given the volume of picks the Hawks could hold. This is just one scenario but, as always, it provides fodder for discussion. Stay tuned.