With Malcolm Delaney hitting free agency and Isaiah Taylor operating on a non-guaranteed contract, there is some uncertainty at the point guard position for the Atlanta Hawks as the summer approaches. Dennis Schroder occupies the starting spot (pending any trade noise) but, behind him, it would make logical sense for Travis Schlenk and company to evaluate potential options in the 2018 NBA Draft and a recent mock projects Atlanta to do just that.
Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated projects the Hawks to land Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. and high school guard Anfernee Simons earlier in the first round but, at No. 30 overall, he sees a fit with Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson.
Brunson’s otherworldly feel and well-rounded offensive skill set should help him stick around the NBA for a long time in some capacity. He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s going to make teammates better, pick the right spots to score and bring leadership. He may not be a plus guarding man-to-man, but understands the value of team defense and should be able to defend enough to make it all work. He’s worth a late first-round pick and could be a plug-and-play guy for the Hawks, who have three firsts.
Brunson isn’t a flashy prospect by any means and some believe he could slip to the second round as a result of a low ceiling. With that said, there is recent success in veteran, established college point guards establishing strong baselines at the NBA level (see Frank Mason in Sacramento, for example) and there is a school of thought that Atlanta, in the midst of a rebuild, could look to add a playable option in year one.
After a three-year stint at Villanova that included two national titles, Brunson will turn 22 in August and he isn’t a hyper-athlete. Still, the reigning Naismith and Wooden award winner converted 39.3 percent of his threes at the college level and Brunson’s passing and basketball IQ would be highly attractive in a backup role.
There are athletic questions but, at 6’3 and with advanced knowledge of positioning, Brunson should be able to hold up defensively and engineer quality offense on the other side of the floor. It is fair to explore the merits of a relatively low-upside player in the first round but, if the Hawks were to take a flier on a player like Simons (or someone in that vain) at No. 19, value in the form of safety could make sense.