After a bit of time to allow the 2017-2018 season to breathe, there are a number of on-court questions to answer and, in this space over the next few days, the Peachtree Hoops staff will spring into action to tackle them. In our second roundtable, we take a look at the crop of rookie wings with an eye toward finding the one to “make it” in the future.
Brad Rowland: From an opportunity standpoint, Tyler Dorsey will have the longest leash. He was the second draft pick (by only a few hours) of Travis Schlenk and, while I certainly am not as high on the former Oregon guard as some, Dorsey wasn’t embarrassing at all during his rookie season. For Dorsey to make it, he absolutely must make shots at a near-elite level and that is something that is tough to assume. Dorsey is still (probably) the right answer but, if not, I’ll take a flyer on Antonius Cleveland. The Hawks like his raw tools and, while they may not pop in full, Cleveland possesses the highest ceiling of the group.
Jeff Siegel: Tyler Dorsey is the only wing who’s got a guaranteed contract for next season, so he’s the most likely player to make it with the Atlanta Hawks, but I’d vouch for my guy Damion Lee to be the one with the brightest NBA future overall. Lee’s shown an ability to shoot from outside in his previous G League stops, so I’m confident that he’ll be able to turn around his three-point shot in the near future, plus he’s already better than Dorsey at scoring inside the arc, on the defensive end, and as a passer and play-maker. Dorsey still has a lot of development time between now and when he’s Lee’s age, but I didn’t see much this year from him that would indicate that he’ll be a passable defender and his size will likely always be a negative when it comes to scoring around the basket.
Graham Chapple: Tyler Dorsey is the easy answer here, purely because he’s a second round pick and is under contract for longer and will more than likely be given a longer shot ahead of the likes of Antonius Cleveland, Damion Lee, Andrew White and Jaylen Morris. He also has the highest ceiling out of all of these players which, again, is to be expected being a second round pick. He also just outplayed these other guys and is just the better player out of them all.
But that feels like an obvious answer to give -- the easy, cheap way out answer -- so for that reason I’ll give another player that isn’t Tyler Dorsey: I’ll say Jaylen Morris. I think his defense is the best skill owned by any of the other three players and if he develops even an average three-point shot then he’s easily the best of the four (White, Lee, Cleveland, Morris) in terms of being able to play both sides. In an offense first league, Lee will probably make it before Morris but I think that’s a mistake.
Glen Willis: I’m tempted to go with Damion Lee on this one because his scoring prowess is real and he has some a decent frame to work with on the defensive end. But the right answer is Tyler Dorsey, mostly because he’s 3 ½ years younger than Lee and did not embarrass himself really at any time across his rookie season. His attention to detail is what makes me feel most encouraged about his future. He is going to have to get stronger to be able to bring enough on the defensive end. He will also need to improve his ability to finish shots at the rim as to be able to punish opposing teams that chase him off of the three point line. But he is young enough that there is plenty of time that the development can be reasonably projected.
Greg Willis: I think it has to be Tyler Dorsey. He has the motor to be a high energy player at the NBA level. His effort on defense and his willingness to shoot without conscience will keep him in the rotation long enough to find his way into a regular role on the Hawks’ roster next season. While the other wings had nice flashes, they are still fringe players trying to work their way into an NBA roster spot.
Sam Meredith: I really like Jaylen Morris and his ability to lock up on defense but the shot is just not there for him at all. Tyler Dorsey is the safe bet to “make it” in the NBA but I’m not terribly confident in any of the rookie wings I saw in 2018. Damion Lee was good for the Hawks, but at 25 years old he is going to need to show off some more ability to create offense for himself and others before any team that isn’t rebuilding will give him a bench role. Most likely to “make it”? I’ll say Dorsey.
Zach Hood: I’d have to give Damion Lee the best chance as of now. He played well in all areas of the game in his stint this season with the Hawks and I think he’s good enough of defense to be fringe rotation player on a few teams right now. As for all of the rookie wings, his consistency from three-point range and his defensive performance will most likely be what determines if he’s able to stick around in the NBA for a long time. I think his game is the most developed out of all of the rookies, as it probably should be considering he’s 25. Despite Dorsey being younger, Lee’s intangibles still give him the edge to me.
A dark horse candidate for me would be Antonius Cleveland, a lengthy wing with a lot of bounce. He’s easily the most athletic of all the rookie wings Atlanta deployed this season, but we barely saw anything from him as a Hawk as he was rehabbing an ankle injury for much of the season. He bounced around from the Golden State organization then over to Dallas before landing a non-guaranteed two-year deal with the Hawks earlier this year.
Xavier Cooper: I have to go with Tyler Dorsey. He plays hard on defense and already has a nice looking jump shot. The organization, headlined by Travis Schlenk, is probably looking at him as a Kyle Korver/Marco Belinelli type of player. Dorsey has a great attitude and calm way of playing the game. He doesn’t force anything but the ball finds him because he stays moving. I believe he’s the perfect project for what the Atlanta Hawks fans call “Hawks University.”