The upcoming trade deadline is the centerpiece of most NBA discussions right now and with good reason. After all, player movement often sparks widespread interest in the league and, for the Atlanta Hawks, there are a number of storylines to monitor between now and 3:00 pm ET on Thursday, Feb. 7.
However, the Hawks are in an interesting position in that the 2019 NBA Draft also looms as a (very) important event in the team’s timeline and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic recently shed light on what fans could expect to see. Vecenie offered his first mock draft of the process and, while it is quite early to be getting worked up over individual projections (especially in a pre-lottery world), the Hawks land Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver with the No. 5 overall pick.
Culver fits a lot of what Atlanta has looked for in the Travis Schlenk era in addition to filling some useful holes. He’s a shot-making wing at 6-foot-7 with length and terrific basketball IQ. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world, but he has enough to get by and become an NBA starter. Defensively, he’s not elite, but he’s good within Texas Tech’s complicated, changing-game-by-game man-to-man scheme. Additionally, he’s shown terrific growth in each of the last three years of his career. He’d be a terrific fit next to Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins within the Hawks’ young core.
Culver has been quite productive this season, averaging 18.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as the best player for the Red Raiders. In addition, Culver’s overall impact has been significant enough to land him in the top-10 when it comes to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical player of the year standings and the versatile wing is shooting 52 percent from the floor.
As noted by Vecenie, Culver isn’t an uber-athlete by any means but he appears to still be growing (even as a sophomore) and his offensive game is both polished and impressive. At some point, the Hawks are going to need more athleticism, particularly on the defensive end, but Culver would be quite fun as another offensive piece.
Elsewhere within the mock (which is fully available behind a paywall), the Hawks landed European forward Luka Samanic, LSU big man Naz Reid and Washington wing Matisse Thybulle in the second round. That provides yet another reminder of Atlanta’s stockpile of draft assets but the other headliner is the selection of Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson at No. 8 overall, using the pick acquired from Dallas.
Vecenie notes that “this selection wouldn’t exactly be sexy” and later says that “Johnson isn’t a particularly explosive athlete by NBA standards.” As a result, the fan base may not be overjoyed by yet another high-floor, (relatively) low-ceiling wing option but there are arguments for it.
Generally, he’s just a trustworthy prospect in a draft where question marks persist all over the place. He plays a position of need around the league, has a well-rounded game, and at 19 still has good upside. Atlanta has a lot of wings on rookie contracts, but we’re entering an era where I’m not sure you can have enough of them. Johnson will be an asset for someone next season.
In this scenario (which is definitely worth reading if you have a subscription), names like North Carolina forward Nassir Little and Texas big man Jaxson Hayes would be undeniably intriguing. It is easy to get on board with the “you can never have too many wings” concept, however, and there will be plenty of time for arguments when May and June arrive.