In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s edition takes a glance at SMU guard Shake Milton.
Unless you are a die-hard college basketball enthusiast, it would have been easy to miss Shake Milton during the 2017-2018 season. The 21-year-old guard was the best player for the SMU Mustangs throughout the campaign but his team finished with only a 17-16 overall record and, by nature of conference affiliation and a general lack of visibility, Milton’s stellar contributions flew under the radar.
NBA teams, however, were certainly taking notice.
Milton likely won’t ascend to superstar levels in the league but he brings a tremendous skill set to the table, especially when given the current demand for versatile perimeter players. At the NBA Draft Combine, Milton measured at almost 6’6 with a wingspan near 7’1, leaving plenty of tools to work with on both ends of the floor and his production at the college level is also instructive with regard to the next step.
Over three seasons and 87 games at SMU, Milton converted 42.7 percent of his three-point attempts on considerable volume. The ability to knock down shots from the perimeter is paramount for supporting pieces and, in Milton’s case, his production translated even when guarded during his junior season. The veteran guard made 49.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes in guarded scenarios and, even if that may not be sustainable long-term, there is no reason to think that he’ll be anything but an above-average shooter at the NBA level.
Beyond that, Milton was also quite efficient on the whole, posting a 24.2 PER with a 61 percent true shooting last season. His passing vastly improved over the course of his career as well, culminating in a 26 percent assist rate as a junior and an encouraging overall basketball IQ and court vision.
Defensively, Milton’s tools and physicality are quite interesting and that side of the ball could be even a bigger draw for NBA teams. His length and toughness are perfect in today’s switchable league and Milton also knows where to be on the floor. That, of course, is an underrated trait, especially for a young player, but Milton’s versatility and ability to function coherently at multiple positions (he played point guard quite a bit at the college level) would seemingly fit snugly in what the Hawks are attempting to do under Lloyd Pierce.
In some ways, draft boards appear mixed on Milton, even if there is something of a consensus that he operates as a top-40 overall player in this class. Following the combine and his impressive measurables, it is certainly possible (or even likely) that Milton could slide into the first round and his overall profile is that of a first-round pick in my view. With that said, there might be teams scared away by his lack of flash and upside, leaving a playoff-bound team (or a team like the Hawks drafting in place of Houston at the end of the first round) to benefit with a projectable role player.
Atlanta’s rebuild has inspired philosophical discussions concerning how the team should approach the draft, with some centering on upside almost exclusively. While Shake Milton doesn’t necessarily have traditional upside as a primary offensive creator, it would be easy to argue that his tools, when packaged correctly, would play up in a significant way and, by proxy, his ceiling as an elite-level role player might be higher than you would imagine.
Because No. 19 could be considered a reach for Milton, the Hawks may not have a realistic ability to snatch the SMU product, simply because he could easily be off the board between No. 20 and No. 30 overall. Still, it wouldn’t be a crime (in the slightest) for Travis Schlenk to center on Milton at No. 19 and, if Milton is available at No. 30, it would be easy to see him slotting in as an interesting and versatile cog for Atlanta.