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Initial NBA Draft mocks lean toward Marvin Bagley III for Atlanta Hawks

It’s not unanimous but there is a theme.

Duke v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Travis Schlenk and the Atlanta Hawks have more than a month to decide what to do with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The most obvious answer is to simply select the best player available but, of course, there is the possibility of a trade (up or down) and potential roster concerns, particularly through the prism of 2017 first round pick John Collins and fit with prospects in this year’s crop.

To that end, there are a number of players that could be in consideration when Atlanta comes on the clock in late June but initial mock drafts from around the basketball world seem to be leaning in one direction.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN sets the tone by projecting Duke big man Marvin Bagley III to Atlanta.

While Bagley has some positional concerns defensively, his athleticism, motor, rebounding, finishing ability and overall productivity will be very attractive here.

He has terrific scoring instincts and likely brings better shot-making potential than he showed in college with more spacing around him at the NBA level.

Beyond that, Givony also brings word that the Hawks are “very high on Bagley in particular” in advance of the draft.

Of course, whispers in every direction will likely appear between now and June 21 but it is certainly worth filing that information away.

To be fair, though, Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated actually projects the Hawks to end up with Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr., even with Bagley III on the board.

The Hawks leapfrogged one spot to No. 3, which ironically comes after they lost a tiebreaker with the Mavericks for third-best odds. The move will likely give them their choice of big men. Atlanta already has John Collins in place as an athletic, rim-running big, and while this will be close between Jackson and Marvin Bagley, the former’s skill set is a better complement.

Jackson is extremely young for his class, and while he’s not as offensively polished or ready for the NBA, he possesses a critical duality for modern bigs: he can step out and shoot from outside, while also defending in space and protecting the rim. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally before he can become a mainstay, but has improved at a rapid rate over the last couple years. Atlanta has time to let him grow.

The debate between Bagley III and Jackson Jr. has been raging (at least in some corners of the fan base) for weeks and things will only intensify in the coming days. Still, two additional outlets align Bagley with the No. 3 pick.

Chris Stone of the Sporting News said the following.

Bagley’s foundational combination of athleticism and an elite motor is something for NBA teams to build on, but his skill set offensively is still raw. There are flashes of floor spacing, short roll playmaking and face-up drives. It all remains left hand dominant, however.

Defensively, Bagley faces similar questions to Ayton, and it’s tough to imagine him as an anchor at the NBA level.

And, finally, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports put forth a passionate advocacy for Bagley III, including the notion that he should be the No. 1 overall pick.

I know I’m in the minority. But let the record show that, if I were in charge of a franchise, I’d probably take Bagley first in this draft.

Yes, I understand the concerns about him -- specifically that his incredible production at the collegiate level was mostly the byproduct of superior athleticism and quickness to literally everybody he ever played against, point being the 6-11 forward won’t be able to just physically overwhelm people as a professional. And, I concede, he’s neither an ideal power forward nor center for the modern NBA. But Bagley is still a consensus top-ranked high school player who averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in one year of college for a great ACC team. Simply put, I think he’ll figure it out. And I personally project him as a future All-Star.

There is plenty of time for additional research and no one has to decide anything in mid-May. However, the early buzz seems to be centering on a highly productive freshman big man from Duke and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Bagley III ended up being the choice.

Stay tuned.