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NBA Mock Draft: Goga Bitadze, Brandon Clarke included in first round trio for Atlanta Hawks

An interesting haul with a great value at No. 17 overall.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Gonzaga vs Texas Tech Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

With less than two weeks until the 2019 NBA Draft, projections are still adjusting to the new reality for the Atlanta Hawks. The team now owns three top-17 picks after the much-ballyhooed trade involving Taurean Prince, and the presence of six picks in the top 44 opens myriad doors for Travis Schlenk and the team’s front office. With that in mind, mock drafts are also beginning to weigh in on what might transpire if the Hawks stay put at No. 8, No. 10 and No. 17, with Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated doing just that on Tuesday.

At No. 8, Woo projects Duke forward Cameron Reddish to land in Atlanta and, beyond that, the report made news concerning Atlanta and a potential focus on Jarrett Culver. However, Reddish is (easily) the most popular projection for the Hawks at this juncture and, considering that, the more interesting choices arrive at No. 10 and No. 17.

With the No. 10 pick, Woo projects the Hawks to select Georgian big man Goga Bitadze:

It’s not clear whether the Hawks will keep this pick, but Bitadze would be a solid fit here, helping to immediately stabilize their frontcourt. He’s a relatively safe choice and pretty clearly the most NBA-ready big man in this draft, coming off a strong year overseas in which he won multiple MVPs and the EuroLeague’s Rising Star award. His impressive productivity as a teenager bodes well, and his size, interior skills, physicality and developing jumper are legit. Bitadze’s ceiling might be capped a bit defensively, as he won’t do much guarding the perimeter, but he should bring enough to the table scoring and rebounding that scheme can help cover up some of those issues. His ability to space the floor fits nicely with Atlanta’s personnel, and he’d be a strong pick-and-roll partner for Trae Young.

The choice to select Bitadze ahead of Texas big man Jaxson Hayes would be controversial in some circles but, as Woo notes, he is a firmly established player, having starred at the highest levels in Europe. Bitadze’s biggest question mark is his defensive potential given his athletic limitations, but he is a polished, productive player that would be a worthy investment at No. 10 in a relatively weak draft.

Later, the Hawks caught a break with Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke sliding all the way to No. 17 overall.

Atlanta just acquired this pick from Brooklyn, and it’s possible they repackage it via another trade if they end up moving upward in the lottery. The Hawks won’t keep all six of their selections, at any rate. But Clarke makes much more sense in this range, where some of the financial investment and overall risk is mitigated. He’s a favorite of analytic models around the league and was hyper-efficient at Gonzaga, although granted, a huge majority of his shots came directly around the rim. Teams like his energy and intangibles, but there are some valid questions about translation, given that he’s so small for his position, and may not be able to hit threes at a sustainable clip. But in Atlanta, he’d fit well as defensive cover and a lob target for Trae Young.

Some are skeptical of Clarke’s ultimate projection and, with his size and shooting questions, it might make sense to pass on the ultra-productive prospect in the top 10. At No. 17, though, it becomes something of a no-brainer from a value perspective, even with the caveat that the frontcourt could get crowded with Bitadze, Clarke, John Collins, Alex Len and Omari Spellman.

In the end, this scenario would involve the Hawks grabbing a trio of top-12 players (at least in my evaluation) and, simply put, that would be a positive haul.

Stay tuned.