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NBA Mock Draft: Anthony Edwards projected to Hawks with No. 1 pick

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NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mock draft season won’t arrive in full force until April or May but, with the calendar already flipped to 2020, there is plenty of attention on the upcoming NBA Draft. That is particularly true with the Atlanta Hawks because, while there is plenty of reason to believe the team will improve from its 8-30 record, the Hawks still project to be in the mix for a top draft pick.

With that in mind, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic released an updated mock draft on Friday morning and, in settling on the Hawks in the No. 1 slot — Atlanta currently has the worst record in the NBA — he set the stage by discussing the organization’s roster situation.

The Hawks are going to be in an interesting spot on draft night. They have more cap space than anyone entering the offseason, and a somewhat interesting situation for free agents given the city and given the presence of Trae Young and other young players. For my money, the two holes they need to fill: they need an interior rim protector on defense at the center position, and they need a secondary scorer who can play next to Young and play at a high level on defense. The team should be able to fill both of those spots this summer. But which order do they go about accomplishing that? Do you do center in the draft, and wings in free agency? Or vice versa?

Ultimately, Vecenie landed on Georgia guard Anthony Edwards as the choice for the Hawks at the top of the board, highlighting his abilities on the wing.

For me, the answer is clear. The Hawks should be prioritizing getting another wing in the draft. It’s too hard to get accomplished wings in free agency at a reasonable price. And typically, there are plenty of big men around in free agency or available via trade. So with that being said, I think keeping Edwards home makes a lot of sense. An Atlanta native, Edwards is a bit of a gunner, but his mix of power and athleticism would play extremely well next to Young’s finesse and shooting. Edwards is averaging 18.4 points as a freshman, and has been the player mentioned most to me as the best prospect in the class overall. I wouldn’t call Edwards the consensus top guy (it’s more of a plurality for scouts right now), but he’s the player who has the most star power in this class, in my opinion. Still, the race for No. 1 is wide open. It will be dependent upon who gets the pick, and how the rest of the year finishes. As I wrote about recently, there is no surefire No. 1 guy in the way that Zion Williamson, Deandre Ayton/Luka Doncic, Markelle Fultz or Ben Simmons were.

As noted here by Vecenie, Edwards sits at No. 1 for many observers (including myself) and he would be a nice fit in Atlanta. He has enough size (and defensive upside) to operate next to Trae Young and, even with the Hawks already investing heavily in Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, it would be difficult for the team to have “too many wings” with the way the NBA is moving. It is definitely worth noting that Edwards isn’t a sure-fire top pick in the way that Zion Williamson was in 2019, but there is an intriguing skill set involved.

The Hawks will undoubtedly be tied to James Wiseman (or even Onyeka Okongwu) in the coming days due to the organization’s need for a long-term center, understanding that Atlanta may not be lucky enough to be picking at No. 1 overall. However, Atlanta doesn’t have to go big with their 2020 first round pick and, considering the shifting landscape of the league from a value standpoint, Edwards currently appears to check the most boxes as Travis Schlenk and company evaluate this class.

Stay tuned.