The most prominent outlet in sports media recently projected the Atlanta Hawks to pass on Luka Doncic (and others) in favor of Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. and, well, the reaction was interesting to monitor. Later in the week, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report also put forth a scenario in which the Hawks, with an opportunity to select Doncic, would go in a different direction.
This time? The pick was Texas center Mo Bamba.
The Atlanta Hawks could go in a number of directions at No. 3. They may target a guard such as Doncic or Trae Young, or they might prefer one of the remaining high-profile bigs in Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr.
They could be thrown off if Doncic is available, since he’s perceived as a No. 1 candidate. But Bamba will be the name to watch here for the Hawks.
His 7’10” wingspan helps give him some of the most unique upside in the draft, particularly if he can build on the offensive glimpses he sporadically flashed at Texas.
The Hawks lack talent across the board, so they’ll want to try to land a one-of-a-kind potential difference-maker. That’s Bamba, who has game-changing defensive abilities and more offensive skill than Rudy Gobert has shown.
There has been buzz concerning Atlanta’s potential interest in Trae Young, though no outlet has projected that as an actual fit at No. 3 overall. In fact, most of the coverage has centered on a four-player top tier (including my own) and that lends itself to a likely decision between Doncic, Jackson Jr. and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III.
However, Wasserman (and others) are clearly “in” on Bamba as a real candidate for the No. 3 spot. In my opinion, it certainly feels high based on the other available options but Bamba’s defensive ceiling is obviously significant and, if you believe in his offensive potential (especially through the prism of his jump shot), it wouldn’t be difficult to project him as an All-Star level player.
The Rudy Gobert comparisons write themselves, especially given that Bamba’s wingspan is the largest ever measured at the NBA Draft Combine. Still, there are real questions about what he can actually bring on the offensive end and, unlike Jackson Jr., Bamba’s skill level on the offensive end is more theoretical and actual at this stage.
With three weeks until the NBA Draft arrives, the divides are beginning to show, with some on the train of Bagley III, citing his productivity, hyper-athleticism and pedigree. On the other hand, the allure of Jackson Jr. or Bamba on the defensive end is real, especially if one buys one or both as legitimately impactful offensive prospects in the future. Then, of course, Doncic brings a greatly valued wing skill set to the table, creating for himself and others with off-the-charts basketball IQ, but battling against athleticism questions.
Simply put, it’s going to be very interesting moving forward and that doesn’t even touch on the (admittedly unlikely) scenario that Arizona’s Deandre Ayton slips out of the top two and becomes a candidate. Stay tuned.