March Madness arrives in two weeks and mock draft season is heating up, even before the NBA campaign actually comes to a close. It is very important to remember that things are fluid with the draft order itself and, for example, the Atlanta Hawks aren’t likely to garner the No. 5 overall pick, even if the team holds serve and enters lottery night with the fifth-worst record in the league.
That won’t stop anyone from making projections, however, and that is exactly what Ricky O’Donnell of the SB Nation mothership did on Wednesday morning. Using the current standings as his guide, O’Donnell placed the Hawks in the No. 5 spot and Atlanta came away with Duke forward Cameron Reddish.
Reddish’s freshman year has been a major reality check from his preseason hype as he’s struggled to make a consistent name for himself playing next to Williamson and Barrett. He still has obvious strengths as a shooter and impact defender with a 7’1 wingspan. NBA teams will question his athleticism, motor, and feel for the game in part because he’s badly struggled to score inside the arc all season.
Even if Reddish likely won’t live up to the Paul George comparisons he was getting in high school, he can still be an impactful 3-and-D wing in the mold of Otto Porter Jr. or Robert Covington. His effectiveness might ultimately come down to whether he can continuously stay engaged mentally.
Reddish has been an exceptionally popular mock target for the Hawks in the early going and it is also worth noting that Chris Kirschner of The Athletic has reported interest within the franchise. On one hand, that makes complete sense in that Reddish is a smooth athlete with great length and intriguing two-way potential. On the other, the freshman has connected on only 40 percent of two-point field goal attempts on the year and his efficiency and production have been questionable as a result.
At this stage, Reddish is still a consensus top-five prospect and, if available at No. 5 overall, he would have to be in the mix for Atlanta. Still, he isn’t void of issues and it is definitely worth keeping in mind that this entire draft is chocked full of questions... at least when removing presumptive No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson from the board.
Elsewhere in this mock scenario, O’Donnell projects the Hawks to snatch Texas center Jaxson Hayes with the No. 10 overall pick (via Dallas). Depending on how you feel about the athletic big man, this is a pairing that could make sense, as O’Donnell notes that Hayes is “built to run the floor” and “he feels full of untapped upside.”
In contrast, it also indicates that Hayes “remains a work in progress” and, in general, that is an assessment that I would agree with at this stage. Between now and draft night, the Hawks will almost certainly be linked with Hayes on a repeated basis, in part because the team is operating with John Collins at the power forward spot and without a long-term partner for him at the center position. Still, Travis Schlenk and company would need to evaluate Hayes (or any other big man) as a lottery-caliber prospect in order to make this needs-based assessment and that is far from a lock.
Stay tuned throughout the process for more NBA Draft coverage.