In the wake of the NBA Draft Lottery, a flurry of mock drafts landed on the internet and fans across the league devoured them in earnest. That was the case for the Atlanta Hawks, with many projecting players like Duke forward Cameron Reddish, North Carolina forward Nassir Little and Texas big man Jaxson Hayes to join Trae Young, John Collins and company for the future.
At least one mock projected an optimistic scenario (at least in my mind) for the Hawks with Virginia forward DeAndre Hunter sliding to No. 8 overall and, in a similar vein, Kyle Boone of CBS Sports put forth a mock that might excite fans in Atlanta. This particular version charts a course for Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver to be available when the Hawks are making their first selection.
Culver is a perfect fit in Atlanta. His best role is not as a primary playmaker, but as a secondary facilitator and (overqualified) 3-and-D player. In Atlanta, alongside Trae Young, he can be exactly that. When he was less a playmaker and more a glue guy as a freshman at Texas Tech, he made 38.4% of his 3-pointers and fits perfectly as a floor-spacing defensive stopper.
As Boone notes, Culver would be an excellent fit with the Hawks. He brings potential upside as an offensive creator and, at the very least, projects to be a strong two-way option in a supporting role. It has to be noted that the vast majority of prognosticators believe that Culver won’t be available at No. 8 but, of course, crazy things can happen in the NBA Draft and dreams sometimes come true.
At No. 10 overall, CBS projects the Hawks to select Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke.
Clarke is perhaps the safest lottery pick; he’s perhaps not a superstar-in-waiting, but he’s also perhaps immediately playable. He led the NCAA in blocked shots and field goal percentage last season at Gonzaga, and that efficiency should translate to a Hawks team where he likely won’t get many touches as is. When he touches it, Hawks fans should feel confident he’s going to do the right thing with the rock and not squander possessions.
Clarke was a phenomenal player for Gonzaga this season and he is an internet favorite as a result of his hyper-efficiency and big-time athleticism. At the NBA Draft Combine, Clarke put together a memorable athletic showing (including a 40.5-inch vertical leap) and that certainly excited those that were already in his camp. On the flip side, Clarke measured at only 6’8.25 with a 6’8.25 wingspan and, even with his off-the-charts athletic gifts, many will worry about his lack of prototypical length as an NBA big man.
In Atlanta, Clarke would fit as a defense-first player that checks a lot of boxes and, simply put, the Hawks could use someone with his skill set. However, Clarke does have questions — namely with perimeter shooting and “tweener” status — and they could push him down the board to a place where the Hawks may not be comfortable with a top-10 investment.
Mock drafts will continue to fly in the coming weeks but, as with some of the others that came to light in the hours after the lottery, this one is... interesting.