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NBA Mock Draft: De’Andre Hunter headlines interesting projection for Atlanta Hawks

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season is over and, for professional teams that aren’t participating in the NBA Playoffs, the campaign has also come to a close. With that in mind, mock draft season is officially upon us and, on the first day after the 2018-19 regular season, Jonathan Givony of ESPN weighed in with a new, 60-pick projection.

As always, mock drafts shouldn’t be taken with too much seriousness in mid-April, particularly when the draft order itself remains in flux. Still, this is an interesting projection for the Atlanta Hawks, who would land Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter at No. 5 overall in this scenario.

Hunter had one of the best national championship performances in recent memory, dropping 27 points and nine rebounds while converting 4 of 5 3-pointers, including some clutch shots late. He had already established himself as one of the best defenders in the college game. He brings positional versatility with long arms, elite lateral quickness and outstanding instincts. While he has some clear limitations offensively as a shot-creator and likely isn’t the 3-point shooter his college numbers suggest, his game is made for the modern NBA, and there’s a comfort level in his high floor.

The Hawks are well on their way in their rebuilding effort, and Hunter’s offensive limitations can certainly be minimized playing alongside the likes of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins, as they have a huge positional need for a big wing/combo forward in Hunter’s mold.

As noted here, Hunter enjoyed a big-time showing on the biggest stage and his second-half performance against Texas Tech in the national title game certainly drew attention. With that said, one game shouldn’t change a player’s evaluation and Hunter was a projected top-10 pick long before his national “breakout.”

In this scenario, Hunter would be taken over Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver and Duke’s Cameron Reddish. That won’t be a universal opinion but, at the very least, it seems likely that the Hawks will be tied to Hunter in plenty of mocks along the way.

Elsewhere, this mock sends Texas big man Jaxson Hayes to Atlanta with the pick acquired from Dallas. It should be noted that the Hawks would be picking ninth in the scenario laid out by ESPN, but Givony describes Hayes as a player with “phenomenal physical tools, mobility and instincts on both ends of the floor” and the indication is that Hayes is the “top center prospect in the draft.”

There is, of course, downside along the way, ranging from what might be a tricky pairing with John Collins to uncertainty about Hayes’ feel for the game, but it would be an intriguing pairing.

Full details are available at the link above but, to fully kick off mock season, a combination of Hunter and Hayes wouldn’t be all bad for the Hawks.

What say you?