One of the annual traditions in SB Nation land is a site-driven NBA Mock Draft to aid in setting the table for the actual draft in mid-to-late June. Like each exercise in the past, it was a great deal of fun to participate in the 2018 edition and the good folks at SBN’s Ridiculous Upside released the full results here.
From the perspective of the Atlanta Hawks, Peachtree Hoops drove the bus and there were difficult decisions at each and every draft slot. With that said, here is what we elected to do.
No. 3 overall pick - Jaren Jackson Jr., C/PF, Michigan State
In this scenario, Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and Slovenia’s Luka Doncic were off the board, putting forth a decision between Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba and Trae Young, among players linked to the Hawks at this point. For me, it quickly becomes a two-man race with Doncic unavailable, and the choice comes down to Jackson Jr. and Bagley III, with a great deal of the evaluation coming down to personal preference.
In the end, I rank Jackson Jr. slightly ahead of Bagley, largely for his two-way impact. Offensively, there is very little doubt that Bagley is the superior prospect and, with that on the table, many would simply take him due to evaluations that center heavily on that end of the floor. Still, Jackson’s defensive ceiling is immense and, offensively, there is reason to believe he can be a very valuable piece with his shooting and ball-handling at an obscenely young age.
No. 19 overall pick - De’Anthony Melton, SG/PG, USC
In a few different mock draft exercises in the past, I’ve centered on Oregon’s Troy Brown but he was off the board in this instance. With that said, the players in consideration were Melton, Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison, Tulane’s Melvin Frazier and Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie.
It may be a surprise to some to see Melton this high but he ranks safely as a top-20 guy (and higher) for me. If Melton played this season at USC (he was suspended in connection to the famous FBI probe), I firmly believe he would be in lottery consideration and he has a great deal of talent.
Defensively, Melton is a tantalizing prospect, with length, quickness and athleticism to defend multiple positions at a high level. Offensively, his jump shot is something of a question mark but all indications are that he has improved greatly in that area over the last year and Melton brings creation ability and passing to the table in a supporting offensive role.
No. 30 overall pick - Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane
Given the players in consideration for the No. 19 pick above, only Frazier made it to No. 30 and that is a positive break for the Hawks. He is solidly in my top 20 overall and, on a recent Locked on Hawks podcast, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic extolled his virtues as a potential two-way monster that continues to improve.
Frazier is a tremendous athlete with the length to defend 1 through 4 and, while his basketball IQ isn’t as high as some lottery-bound prospects, there is room to grow into a high-end role player. The pivot point is his jump shot but Frazier made great strides last season and they are believable based on his mechanics.
It wasn’t an absolute no-brainer when compared to the other players — Jalen Brunson, Dzanan Musa, Mitchell Robinson, Shake Milton and Bruce Brown — in consideration, but Frazier brings a much-needed wing presence and is the highest-rated prospect remaining on my board.