The Atlanta Hawks have every reason to be searching for upside in the 2018 NBA Draft. Of course, there is always the risk/reward balance when considering which prospects to tab with draft picks but, given the team’s rebuilding trajectory and lack of elite-tier options on the current roster, Travis Schlenk hasn’t been shy in indicating that talent might win the day when June 21 arrives.
To that end, a recent mock draft from Sean Deveney of Sporting News would certainly fulfill the upside quotient, as Atlanta effectively swings for the fences with all three first round selections.
At No. 3 overall, the Hawks unsurprisingly land Duke’s Marvin Bagley III.
Defensive instincts are the issue with Bagley and have dinged his stock, but it’s not likely that he falls very far. He is a big, smooth offensive player who can shoot from the perimeter and finish in the paint. He has star potential.
It wouldn’t be difficult to argue that Bagley III is actually one of the safer options at No. 3, if only because his off-the-charts motor, rebounding and college production provide a high floor. Still, his athleticism and projection allow for a high ceiling if everything comes together and there is a reason some believe the Hawks might have him (very) high on their board.
Elsewhere, Atlanta ends up with Texas Tech wing Zhaire Smith at No. 19 overall.
Smith was under the radar heading into his college career, but playing in Tech’s all-out, blitzing defense showcased his ability to shut opponents down on the perimeter. Watch him dunk a few times, and you’ll get a clear picture of his athleticism. He will need time to develop, particularly offensively.
Smith’s lack of size (6’4 in shoes) won’t do him any favors but it is hard to ignore his athleticism (41.5-inch vertical leap) and upside if the pieces fall into place. Right now, he is a defense-first prospect with an offensive game that profiles more as a combo forward than a player with shooting guard size. On the other hand, Smith is very talented and his nearly 6’10 wingspan should help assuage size concerns, at least to some degree.
Finally, the Hawks end up with Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo at No. 30 overall.
Diallo made a splash around this time last year with his athleticism but ultimately decided to attend Kentucky rather than stay in the draft. He had ups and downs as a shooter with the Wildcats, and his ability to show he can knock down shots will be key to getting him into the first round.
This is the pick that is very difficult to justify, especially with Missouri’s Jontay Porter, Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans, USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and SMU’s Shake Milton all still available.
Diallo is an off-the-charts athlete but he wasn’t particularly effective at the college level (to be kind) and he profiles more as a second-round prospect at this stage. Still, an argument could potentially be constructed that his 99th percentile upside would be vastly higher than a few players referenced above and, if that is what the Hawks are prioritizing, Diallo would be a candidate.
As always, mock drafts are mock drafts and, even if they exist through the prism of intel around the league, it is virtually impossible to peg each pick correctly. View this (and all) mocks identified in this space through that lens and, well, don’t take them very seriously, but more as a thought exercise.