The 2019 NCAA Tournament begins later this week and, even if you aren’t particularly interested in college basketball, there is plenty to monitor through the prism of the NBA Draft. With that in mind, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ($) put together a new mock draft that went live on Monday and the Atlanta Hawks came away with an intriguing haul.
Because the piece is behind a paywall, we won’t dive all the way into Atlanta’s five-player group of selections but, in the lottery, the Hawks landed the duo of Duke forward Cameron Reddish and Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver. It is important to note that the Hawks aren’t likely to select exactly at No. 5 and No. 6 in the upcoming draft but, at the moment, that is where Atlanta and Dallas fall in the pecking order, which would explain that alignment here.
With their own pick at No. 5, the Hawks would tab Reddish in this hypothetical scenario and that goes along with a ton of buzz at this (very) early juncture.
Both NBA and college sources believe that the Hawks are fans of Reddish at this stage of the process. It’s easy to see why. He’d fit their roster perfectly. He’s something of a point forward type who has the ability to knock down shots from distance, defend both big and small, and play at the 3 or the 4. It’s easy to envision super big lineups with he and 6-foot-7 Kevin Huerter on the wing, or smaller lineups with Reddish and John Collins across the front line.
There is no question that, as Vecenie notes here, the theory of Reddish makes a ton of sense for what the Hawks need in the future. Still, he isn’t a perfect prospect by any stretch.
The questions with Reddish certainly exist. He hasn’t finished well around the basket this season. He’s not a remarkably explosive vertical athlete. His handle isn’t as tight as it could be yet. But there is a ton of athletic fluidity for a kid that is 6-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. His ability to space the floor will really help open things up for Trae Young. Reddish makes a lot of sense across the board for the Hawks.
In short, Reddish simply hasn’t been very good during his one season at Duke, at least when evaluating him against other top-tier prospects. That does not foreclose on his ability to make a leap in the NBA, particularly when considering his length and projected defensive impact, but Reddish isn’t quite as safe as some would like and that is worth noting.
From there, Atlanta pivots to another wing player in Culver and Vecenie echoes something we’ve been saying in this space for some time. You simply cannot have too many wings.
You might be asking; why another wing for the Hawks? Well, my read is that Hawks’ general manager Travis Schlenk is a smart executive. Simply put, wings are harder to come by than big men in today’s NBA. And with the team already possessing its point guard of the future in Young, it makes the most sense to add another wing and continue to accumulate depth at the hardest position to accumulate depth at in the NBA. Culver isn’t necessarily an elite athlete, but he’s an extremely smart player with crafty handle, good vision, and developing shooting ability. He’s a good, not great, defender, too, at 6-foot-6 with good length and quickness. As long as you believe in the jump shot continuing to come around, there’s plenty of reason to buy into Culver working out at the next level.
On my personal board (one that is quite fluid in mid-March), Culver is a top-five player and the package value of getting Culver and Reddish makes a ton of sense. Culver doesn’t necessarily bring off-the-charts athleticism but he is a polished, two-way prospect with all kinds of acumen and the ability to create offensively. Pair that level of safety with the theory of Reddish and you have a duo that would fit seamlessly within Atlanta’s current structure.
Of course, there is a long way to go before June and, again, the Hawks may not be in a position to grab both of these players (or even one of them) unless ping-pong balls fall their way. Still, it is easy to dream about this kind of scenario for fans in Atlanta... even if arguments will rage for three months anyway.