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Hawks baffle with Spellman selection, trade of No. 34 pick

An pair of inexplicable transactions for Atlanta.

Michigan v Villanova Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Wrapping up the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks used the selection they picked up in last year’s acquisition of Jamal Crawford to take Omari Spellman out of Villanova University. A few moments later, word came down that the team had elected to trade out of No. 34, moving the pick to Charlotte for two future second-round picks.

The exact years those picks will arrive, at the time of this writing, are unknown, as the Hornets have had a lot of movement with regards to future second-round picks in the last two days, trading for Brooklyn’s 2021 second in the Dwight Howard trade as well as picking up two second-rounders from the Clippers in the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander trade during the first round of Thursday’s draft. During general manager Travis Schlenk’s post-draft media availability, he mentioned that the two incoming second-round picks will be in 2019 and 2023, but it’s not clear at this stage from which teams those selections will come.

Given the talent that was available at No. 34, including Melvin Frazier, Khyri Thomas, DeAnthony Melton, and Shake Milton, all of whom would have come in and been contributors for the Hawks next season, the trade seems like a bit of a loss from that perspective. Usually, second-round picks have a poor success rate, so anytime you can trade one bite at the apple for two, it’s worth strongly considering, but this draft in particular had so many good names available to them at No. 34 that it looks like this will be another negative trade for the Hawks. We won’t know how to grade that portion of the Hawks’ night until we see what picks are incoming from Charlotte.

Jumping back up to the first round, the Spellman pick might just be the worst selection of any team on Thursday night, certainly among those in the first round. Spellman was barely a top-45 prospect, much less a top-30 one, and doesn’t bring a ton to the table at the NBA level outside of effort plays and a winning mentality. He’ll be 21 before the season starts despite only playing one season in college and while he improved over his redshirt and freshman seasons, he still has a long way to go before he’ll have an NBA-ready body.

In keeping with the theme of the night after selecting Trae Young and Kevin Huerter earlier in the draft, Spellman can shoot the ball from outside, though how well that translates to the NBA level is a big question mark. He only shot 70 percent from the free throw line at Villanova (college free throw shooting has a stronger correlation than college three-point percentage with NBA three-point percentage), which gives rise to questions about his ability to hit shots in the big leagues.

Spellman has strong footwork to be a pick-and-pop threat offensively and could develop into a decent passer in short roll or pop situations and will crash in on the offensive glass, but lacks the vertical quickness and explosion to finish putbacks when he does get offensive boards. His NBA role offensively will be that of a pick-and-pop and spot-up shooter who cuts well and jumps in for offensive rebounds when the time is right.

Defensively, he’s effective but unable to really move laterally on the perimeter. Too small to play the 5 consistently, he’s going to have to be able to stick to perimeter players in pick-and-roll or isolation. Spellman has no issues with effort or basketball IQ, but his physical profile does not scream high-level defender in the NBA. The same lack of explosiveness on putbacks offensively hurts his ability to protect the rim, though his intelligence will show up on that end as he baits opponents into bad shots or plays the in-between game between driving guards and rolling big men in pick-and-roll defense.

Overall, the pairing of drafting Spellman at No. 30 and trading out of No. 34 wraps up a very poor night for Schlenk and his front office staff. At each of their four spots, there were better players available or a trade made that hurt the team’s standing, and while it’s far too early to grade the 2018 draft as an overall success or failure, the early outlook is decidedly negative.