The Atlanta Hawks narrowly escaped with a one-point win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon and, after the game concluded, there was a lot of attention paid to ping-pong balls and what kind of impact the result might have. With that as the backdrop, a 2018 NBA mock draft from Jonathan Tjarks, Kevin O’Connor and Danny Chau of The Ringer sheds some light on what could take place if the Hawks slip on the board when the draft lottery arrives in mid-May.
In this scenario, the Hawks would be picking at No. 6 overall with Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mo Bamba unavailable by the time Atlanta is on the clock. The result? Oklahoma point guard Trae Young lands in Atlanta.
First: It’s absolutely wild that the Hawks, who I still contend have the worst roster in the NBA by a significant margin, could manage to pick as late as no. 6 (or, gasp, no. 8) in this draft. But it might not be all bad if they have their pick between talents like Young and Bagley this late. I have my concerns about pairing John Collins and Bagley together. Both players are excellent offensive-minded über-athletes, but neither player projects to be a dependable rim protector — overlapping skill sets are all the rage in today’s game, but not when it means doubling down on blind spots.
Young makes more sense, especially if the Hawks are looking to make sweeping forays into playing futuristic basketball. The Oklahoma guard’s air of invincibility may have vanished, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have all the offensive skills you could possibly ask for in a lead guard. If Young can affect the game through his limitless range and on-ball creativity at even a fraction of the level Steph Curry can, he will be a plus player. Dennis Schröder may still be under contract for several years at $15 million annually, but the Hawks are in no rush here as far as immediate impact goes. What they do need to find sooner rather than later is an identity. Young helps them attain one.
As noted by Danny Chau above, the Hawks would essentially be choosing between Young and Duke big man Marvin Bagley in this scenario. Concerns about pairing Collins and Bagley together are justified, though if the Hawks were to believe that the Duke freshman is the best player on the board, fit questions wouldn’t be enough for the team to run away from that potential duo.
As for Young, he is the epitome of a huge upside point guard that also has considerable risk. By this point, you likely know that Young leads the country in both scoring (27.5 points) and assists (8.9 per game) for the season and, frankly, that is preposterous for a player at a high-major school. However, Young has cooled considerably from a raucous start in Norman and, as a result, there is a growing skepticism about his NBA future.
That, of course, is relative, as the vast majority of pundits evaluate Young as a sure-fire lottery pick and his combination of shooting and passing is tantalizing. There are real questions, though, as his defensive tools aren’t great (to say the least) and it will be a significant adjustment in playing style from the free reign he has been given at Oklahoma to virtually any NBA situation.
It would be perfectly reasonable to select Trae Young with the No. 6 overall pick, even if (as Chau notes) the Hawks would immediately have some work to do in moving Dennis Schroder to pave the way. Still, this kind of result is one that will provide ammunition for the anti-rebuild crowd and quite a bit of fear for those who assign great value to Atlanta’s own 2018 draft pick.