Mock drafts are amusing and they should be treated as such. David Aldridge of NBA.com seems to believe the same thing, noting that “the success rate on these things is extremely low” and generally poking fun at the process.
With that said, his mock draft effort paints an interesting picture for the Atlanta Hawks and, at No. 19 overall, he ties the franchise to Texas Tech wing Zhaire Smith.
Caveat Emptor: the Hawks could obviously move this pick as well as their other first-rounder, 30th overall, for the right package of picks/players. But if they keep it, Smith is a freak athlete who tested off the charts in Chicago (second among all participants in the three-quarter run; fourth in standing vertical jump; fifth in max vertical) that melded promising basketball with those physical gifts this season.
An all-Big 12 Defensive Team selection, Smith shot 45 percent in a somewhat limited sample size (just 40 attempts) in his one college season in helping get the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight. The Hawks need a long-term solution at the two going forward, and would be in no hurry as the 19-year-old Smith went through his growing pains at the next level.
It is definitely important to note that Smith is not projected to slip all the way to the Hawks in many scenarios but it is also a plausible outcome. Because he measured shorter at the combine (6’4 in shoes) than previously anticipated, there is some worry about his versatility in terms of defending bigger wings.
For me, Smith is a tremendous athlete that happens to have big-time defensive potential. The pivot point arrives with his offensive game but, at No. 19 overall, the risk becomes worth it.
Later, Aldridge projects European forward Dzanan Musa to Atlanta at No. 30, though he says “the likelihood is that the Hawks flip this pick for something/someone else.” That, in itself, is an interesting statement to make but, if the Hawks do stick in that particular spot, Atlanta could do far worse than Musa. He brings scoring talent and floor-spacing to the table and, even with his potential defensive weaknesses, Musa is a first-round talent.
Finally, the Hawks are tied to Duke big man Marvin Bagley III at No. 3 overall with the following sentiment.
The Hawks are in the best possible position in this year’s Draft (if they stay here); they’re certain to get one of the top three players on the board without lifting a finger. Bagley should be able to score and rebound immediately (Atlanta checked in 25th in rebounds per game this past season) and help John Collins and Taurean Prince up front.
The Hawks are strong favorite to move one or both of their other firsts (19th and 30th) and could move all over the board, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they could move down a couple of spots from three and garner another future first or young player if someone else wants this pick bad enough. But the Hawks are in no hurry. To move out of three would have to bring back a young player with upside and a potential Lottery pick in 2019. Eliminate all that tsuris and go for the 6-9 Bagley.
In this mock, Aldridge projects Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic to be off the board, leaving a choice between Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba, Trae Young and, potentially, Michael Porter Jr. for the No. 3 pick. There is certainly a segment of the fan base that would prioritize Bagley and it is easy to see why.
He has tremendous offensive tools, which help generate comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire and others with All-Star pedigree. The questions arrive defensively but, if he can prove to be an effective switch defender, some of those concerns are mitigated and an athletic pairing of Bagley and John Collins might be tantalizing, albeit tough at the outset.
Stay tuned throughout the week for all the latest on the 2018 NBA Draft.