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Marvin Bagley III headlines Atlanta Hawks quartet in prominent NBA mock draft

Despite buzz that he could be off the board, one mock sees Bagley landing in Atlanta.

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mock drafts will be flying around in earnest over the next 10 days, with outlets weighing in on what they believe will transpire when the 2018 NBA Draft arrives. On Monday, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ($$) released his first mock draft in more than a month and, in my opinion, he is one of the best draft analysts anywhere.

To that end, Vecenie’s analysis comes with credibility and, in this mock scenario, Duke big man Marvin Bagley III would be available for the Hawks at No. 3 overall and Travis Schlenk would pull the trigger.

The Hawks will be taking the best player on their board regardless of position. On my board, that’s Bagley, a monster athlete who produced at a prodigious clip this season. He’s the first freshman in the last quarter century to average at least 21 points and 11 rebounds on a 64.3 true-shooting percentage, and only the second high-major player to do it, joining Blake Griffin at Oklahoma in 2009.

Much like when Griffin was coming into the league, nobody doubts that Bagley will be productive offensively and on the glass. But there is concern about how he fits in defensively. He is not the most instinctive player there, often ending up in no-man’s land. And despite elite quickness at his size, he doesn’t have great fundamentals in terms of his defensive stance. He’ll need a strong defensive coach to get the most out of him.

For the full mock draft (and much more), it would be a wise idea to invest in a subscription to The Athletic. However, the analysis here is interesting in that the Hawks should certainly be in “best player available” mode and Vecenie outlines a scenario in which Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are the players off the board in the top two spots, rather than heavy public reporting that Bagley III could be the target for the Kings at No. 2 overall.

Beyond that, Vecenie references buzz that the Hawks have interest in Bagley III, though a number of other players are obviously in consideration at No. 3 overall.

In NBA circles, Atlanta has been noted to have been high on Bagley all year. But they’ll also look at Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Michael Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter. Doncic would be in play if he’s available. The Hawks have also been said to be high on Oklahoma point guard Trae Young. If they decided to go that route, though, my guess is that would involve a trade down.

Elsewhere in the mock draft (again, the full context requires a subscription), the Hawks add a combination of relative safety and upside with their three additional picks. One of those investments comes at No. 30 overall, when Atlanta selects high school guard Anfernee Simons.

Vecenie outlines the rationale in this way:

With four picks in the first 34 selections, the Hawks can afford to take a high-upside player. Simons fits that bill as a quick-twitch athlete who can score and get into the paint at will. His frame worries some teams, at least in terms of making an early impact. He’s skinny and hasn’t shown much in the way of defensive acumen. But he has potential as a three-level shot-maker in an era where those are more valued than ever. Atlanta has brought him in for a workout and will almost certainly be in the market for a lead guard as the Dennis Schroder era runs its course.

Simons is a high-upside player that could make a ton of sense for the Hawks in a draft that features four picks (as noted above) and the need for offensive creation. He does bring considerable risk to the table, though, and may need legitimate G League seasoning in order to reach his full potential.

As always, mock drafts should be taken with a grain of salt, simply because it is difficult (read: impossible) to string together a likely scenario for a team deploying four selections in the top 34 picks. Still, this exercise could be instructive and it adds fuel to the fire in a number of ways.

Stay tuned.