The Atlanta Hawks have a (very) interesting decision to make at the top of the draft and, even as buzz indicates they could be favoring one particular prospect, nothing is ever “done” until the name is called. Elsewhere, the Hawks also have two picks at No. 30 and No. 34 that are intriguing but, in the middle, the No. 19 overall pick beckons and, in some ways, Atlanta is in a weird spot that could potentially sit between tiers.
Before diving deeper into the seven players featured in this space, here are a few names that fell just short of making the cut but would also be reasonable investments.
- Keita Bates-Diop - Scouts are (very) split on Bates-Diop. If you evaluate him from the 2017-2018 season alone, it is easy to love him and his game. However, he’ll be 23 in January, wasn’t much of a factor before his late-college breakout and there are athleticism concerns. He has the feel of a quality NBA role player with versatility but my guard is up.
- Donte DiVincenzo - The Hawks might have to take him here if they want him. I wouldn’t endorse it at No. 19, but DiVincenzo’s combination of athleticism and shooting could be quite enticing to Travis Schlenk and company.
- Melvin Frazier - We discussed Frazier at length in conjunction with the No. 30 and No. 34 picks but he’s someone I am extremely high on. In fact, Frazier would be just fine at No. 19 and his two-way ability is tantalizing.
- Aaron Holiday - Holiday is another guy who is inspiring some polarity right now. He has great physical tools (including a 6’8 wingspan) but some view him as something other than a pure point guard. Throw in inconsistent defense and you might have a prospect with some holes. On the flip side, his shooting is (very) real and he brings more theoretical upside than a player like Jalen Brunson.
Without further ado, here are seven players (in alphabetical order) that could be available and would make sense for the Hawks at No. 19 overall.
In many ways, No. 19 feels low for Brown, who has been consistently mocked in the mid-teens for months. Anything can happen when the draft gets moving, though, and the Hawks could benefit from a blue-chip talent slipping a bit.
Brown entered college with the most impressive pedigree of anyone on this list, as he was a consensus five-star recruit before landing at Oregon. He wasn’t fantastic as a freshman but Brown flashed a do-it-all skill set that teams will value and he is the type of player that should have more freedom to succeed in the league.
The big question is his jump shot and that is something he will have to improve in order to return value. His basketball IQ, passing, length, defensive acumen and overall floor game are appealing, though, and that makes for a mid-first round value.
Evans is a weird evaluation for me. I think he’s gone before No. 30 but he wouldn’t be in my small circle of consideration for No. 19 overall. With that said, I’d have no objection with him in this slot, simply because his basketball IQ is evident, he has defensive tools and projects as a two-way option.
He might be the prospect with the least casual intrigue of anyone in this space but Evans can play basketball. That’s fun.
Hutchison is an older prospect but he comes with more offensive ceiling than most players in his mold. He was a legitimate 20-point scorer a season ago and there is a lot to like about his polished offensive profile. Hutchison can create with the ball in his hands but, in the NBA, he is more likely to be a player flying off screens and attacking close-outs. Fortunately, he’s well-suited for both.
There are sexier picks at No. 19, even if the Hawks are specifically targeting offense and shooting. Hutchison is just a well-rounded player, though, and he could be in this range without question.
Huerter may not be the best shooter in the class but he’s on the very short list. While he isn’t completely bereft of other skills by any means, the team that nabs him in the first round will be banking on his jump shot and, after the NBA Draft Combine, rumors of a “promise” swirled.
If we assume he’ll be a high-end shooter, the rest of his game will be unlocked. With that said, there are defensive questions to be sure, and Huerter’s ability to do other things offensively is at least up for debate. He isn’t a pure specialist but the Hawks (or any team) will need to value shooting at a high level to invest in the top-20.
Somebody will and, when they do, that fan base will see the other play-making and basketball IQ skills that Huerter brings.
Melton is a personal favorite of mine. Recent Locked on Hawks podcast guest Cole Zwicker professed that Melton is a lottery pick for him and, while I’m not quite there, it’s not the craziest thought.
Defensively, Melton is a tremendous prospect that has drawn comparisons to Marcus Smart, albeit with less brute physical strength. He is a switchable player on the end of the floor and that is headlined by the ability to defend point guards in a primary sense.
On the other end, Melton is a strong on-ball creator that has point guard skills, even if he probably isn’t best suited as a team’s primary initiator. That role can be tough to fill but, if a team can pair him with a high-level wing, Melton’s all-around game should pop.
Questions about his jump shot persist but he’s working with Drew Hanlan and all indications are that Melton is a more polished player in that regard after a year “off” at USC.
While Okobo seems to have little interest in being a “draft-and-stash” at this juncture, he doesn’t need to be with the way he’s played lately. Okobo brings a 6’3 frame with a 6’8 wingspan as a lead guard and, offensively, he is very intriguing given a high-end handle and the ability to create for himself and others.
The other end of the floor is definitely a question mark and scouts seem to be split as to just how high he should go. Still, Okobo has tools that many basketball fans just haven’t seen yet and he would be a reasonable investment for Atlanta, particularly if a plan emerges to part ways with Dennis Schroder in the near future.
Smith is perhaps the most unlikely player on this list to actually fall to No. 19 overall. Even after a combine in which he measured much shorter than many thought (6’4 in shoes), it is easy to be seduced by Smith’s athleticism and overall profile.
It requires belief in his jump shot to take him in the top-20 but there is reason to think he can be a plus shooter in time. The big appeal, though, is on the defensive end and as a high-flyer, with Smith’s 6’10 wingspan and explosiveness setting the stage for a potentially valuable two-way game at the next level.