The 2019 NBA Draft is upon us and, with only a few hours left before picks are actually made, it is time for one final check into the mock draft scene. Interestingly, three major outlets are now projecting identical trios for the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
At No. 8 overall, the consensus lands with Duke forward Cam Reddish. That certainly isn’t a surprise given all the buzz about Reddish over the last few months and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony describes the fit this way.
Reddish is one of the biggest enigmas of this draft class, as he rarely produced up to his talent level as a freshman and mysteriously missed an NCAA tournament game. Still, his combination of size, length, fluidity and perimeter shooting ability is highly intriguing in a draft that is lacking deep star power.
In Atlanta, Reddish would find an ideal situation in which he wouldn’t be asked to carry too heavy of a scoring load immediately alongside Trae Young and the rest of Atlanta’s promising young core -- yet he would still be able to contribute significantly with his perimeter shooting, passing and defensive versatility.
In all three scenarios, the same seven players — Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter and Coby White — are off the board and, in short, it would almost be surprising if Reddish wasn’t the choice under those circumstances.
Later, the three outlets converge on Texas big man Jaxson Hayes with the No. 10 pick and Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated describes the pairing.
Hayes told SI on Wednesday that the only teams he worked out for were Atlanta and Chicago, and rival teams believe he’ll be a strong option for the Hawks at this juncture if they keep the pick. His combination of physical tools and defensive upside have put him firmly in the back half of the lottery. Granted, it’s not clear whether Atlanta will make this pick or if it moves, but he’s also someone other teams may attempt to target via trade in this range of the draft.
Hayes isn’t a perfect fit with the Hawks, unless you believe in his ability to eventually knock down open threes — spacing is going to be imperative going forward as they build around Trae Young. He does come with some risk due to iffy rebounding numbers and the fact he’s so raw. In the late lottery, the upside with him will be worth a shot. While Hayes likely won’t contribute much immediately, he might be closer to NBA-ready than perception suggests: if he adds strength to his above-average frame and continues to work on fundamentals, he should be able to make an impact as a defender and rim-rummer at some point on his rookie contract.
Hayes is a consensus lottery talent but, as Woo notes, he “isn’t a perfect fit” in Atlanta without the ability to space the floor as a shooter. On the positive side, he brings great length and fluidity that could translate into high-end defense and finishing, with Hayes operating as a late-bloomer that could develop in a hurry. His swing skill, particularly when paired with the Hawks, would be the jump shot, but there is a lot to like in his game.
Finally, the consensus lands on Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke at No. 17 overall, with Sam Vecenie of The Athletic painting this picture.
If Clarke gets out of the lottery, I’m just looking at smart front offices to end the slide. The Hawks, Pacers, Spurs, and Celtics would all suffice from No. 17 to 20. Clarke’s production this season was off the charts. If not for the presence of Zion Williamson, Clarke would have set the single-season record for PER in college basketball over the last decade at 37.2. His 69.9 true-shooting percentage was absurd given that only about 50 percent of his shots inside the arc were assisted. Not since Anthony Davis has a player finished first in individual offensive and defensive rating.
Then, throw in that he’s an elite level defender in help situations who can also switch all over the floor, and there’s just a lot of upside here for Clarke as a potential role player. If he’s the fall out of the lottery, it’s because teams can’t get out of their own way in regard to his length and girth, which comes in at a proportional 6-8 wingspan to his height, and under 210 pounds. But his instincts are superb, his touch is good within 10 feet, and his athleticism is off the charts. I’d bet on him with ease around this area.
Clarke would be a spectacular value at No. 17 overall, with many (including myself) projecting him as a lottery talent. The fit with Hayes isn’t ideal in that both bring severe floor-spacing questions but, with the uptick in perimeter shooting displayed by John Collins during the 2018-19 season, the trio could be tantalizing in terms of athleticism and overall impact.
In the end, everyone agrees that the Hawks could be active on the trade market and, as such, the team may not be making all three of its current first-round selections. Still, it is noteworthy that some of the best draft minds are locked in on the same players and only time will tell.