June is here and the 2019 NBA Draft is rapidly approaching. As such, mock drafts are more prominent in the consciousness and a new one from Gary Parrish of CBS Sports projects an interesting takeaway for the Atlanta Hawks.
At No. 8 overall, Parrish projects the Hawks to snag a highly touted forward from the ACC that endured a shaky freshman season in college.
No, it’s not Duke’s Cameron Reddish, but rather Nassir Little of North Carolina.
Little entered college as the reigning MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. He looked like a future top-5 pick. Tremendous upside. But the 6-6 wing just wasn’t that great in his one season at North Carolina. He got stuck playing behind upperclassmen and only averaged 9.8 points in just 18.2 minutes per game. Unsurprsingly, Little’s stock has taken a hit. Can Little still be a great pro? Perhaps. He’s too young and athletic to give up on now. But, either way, he likely won’t be picked anywhere close in this draft to where he expected to be picked when he enrolled at UNC — though, by having him in the top 10, it’s clear I’m still something of a believer.
Given all of the buzz surrounding Reddish, it would be relatively shocking if the former Duke prospect actually fell out of the top 10, as CBS projects here, especially with the Hawks making two selections. With that caveat out of the way, Little would bring an intriguing skill set to Atlanta, with two-way potential and the same “buy low” nature that many assign to Reddish’s prospect pedigree.
In follow-up, the Hawks project to land Texas big man Jaxson Hayes at No. 10 with the following rationale.
Hayes developed late and was labeled as just the third-best prospect in Texas’ four-player recruiting class coming out of high school. But the 6-11 forward showed tremendous ability early in the season and established himself as a lottery talent with incredible upside. Hayes shot 72.8% from the field — mostly because he dunked everything close to the rim. His block percentage age of 10.6 rated 19th nationally. And it should be noted that Hayes is the son of a former professional athlete, which sometimes means nothing but is definitely something more and more NBA franchises have come to value thanks to players like Stephen Curry and Jaren Jackson Jr.
This is not a surprise pairing, as many (including the most recent ESPN mock draft) link the Hawks and Hayes as a potential marriage for the future. There should be some level of hesitation based on the potential fit concerns and the way that traditional centers are losing value in the grand scheme of the modern NBA but, in contrast, Hayes is a terrifically fluid athlete with intriguing upside. If the Hawks (or any other team) believe that he can display a workable jump shot from beyond the three-point arc, that could change his evaluation in a positive direction.
With two picks in the back half of the lottery, myriad scenarios exist for the Hawks and, while that doesn’t allow for much clarity, it does provide a great deal of content for conversation/debate in the next 17 days.