Less than two months have passed since the 2018 NBA Draft and, of course, the incoming rookie class hasn’t yet taken the floor in a real, live professional basketball game. However, it is never too early to glance into the future (at least for rebuilding teams) and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report did just that this week.
The NBA Draft analyst put together a “way-too-soon” 2019 mock draft and, even if everyone realizes this kind of exercise is futile in August, it provides interesting fodder for discussion.
In the end, the Hawks came away with two very intriguing players and the headliner is Duke swingman R.J. Barrett with the No. 1 overall pick.
After adding Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman in the 2018 first round, the Atlanta Hawks should already be thinking about R.J. Barrett and how he’ll fit.
The most decorated, polished incoming freshman, Barrett jumps out as the early favorite to go No. 1. From winning MVP of the U19 World Cup and a national championship with Montverde (Fla.) Academy to April’s Nike Hoop Summit, where he led the World Team over the United States in front of dozens of NBA evaluators, Barrett’s resume is already highly impressive.
And with NBA wing size (6’7”, 202 lbs) and athleticism, plus an improving, expanding scoring repertoire and sharp competitive edge, it’s easy to picture his success carrying over from high school to Duke and the pros.
This isn’t the first time that Barrett has been linked to the Hawks and, well, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t tied to Atlanta throughout the process. Scouts certainly have differing opinions at this juncture but Barrett is seen as the No. 1 overall prospect for many and, if his jump shot comes around during his one (and likely only) season in Durham, it is possible he separates from the pack.
Given the presence of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Taurean Prince and others, the shooting woes may not be as magnified and, as noted above, he has an impressive all-court game that would be tantalizing on the wing.
Elsewhere, the Hawks also landed Virginia forward DeAndre Hunter in the first round, using a theoretical pick from the Dallas Mavericks to claim him at No. 10 overall.
De’Andre Hunter is returning to a bigger role at Virginia, where he’ll have a good shot to build a lottery case with his two-way versatility.
In just 19.9 minutes per game, the NBA scouting lens easily detected his 6’7”, 222-pound frame, athleticism, face-up scoring potential and ability to guard multiple positions.
Another step forward should lead to more substantial interest in Hunter, a promising three-point shooter and tough slasher who’s flashed glimpses of one-on-one shot-creating.
Hunter is something of an enigma at this juncture but, if not for a late-season injury that cost him an NCAA Tournament appearance, the talented forward may have been a first round pick in 2018. He is definitely a defense-first prospect at this juncture (something that might make sense with Atlanta’s roster) but Hunter has quite a bit of talent to become a two-way force and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could be a lottery pick in June.
It is always worth noting (again) that mock drafts in August are meaningless but it is fun to become familiar with various prospects and, well, the college hoops season is rapidly approaching. Buckle up and stay tuned.