In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we examine Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans.
Ashton Hagans is a two-year college guard out of Kentucky. He was one of the better two-way players in the SEC as a sophomore, and the Wildcats were in prime position for a postseason run when the NCAA suspended play in March.
Hagans attended Newton High School in Cartersville, GA before committing to Kentucky. In his sophomore season, Hagans averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds. Hagans, along with Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey, initiated most of head coach John Calipari’s offense in the abbreviated 2019-20 season.
247 Sports listed Hagans as the No. 12 high school player in the country in 2018, ahead of guys like Keldon Johnson, Darius Garland, Tre Jones, Jalen Smith, Devon Dotson, Kira Lewis, Coby White, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and Tyler Herro.
At present, ESPN has Hagans ranked as the No. 54 player on their best available list going into the 2020 draft, but it’s worth noting he’s the No. 20 ranked point guard on their board. It’s far from a guarantee that 20 point guards are drafted, so Hagans could be in late-second to Two-Way territory, but it only takes one team to have him in their top-40 to change that.
Hagans is ranked a bit lower at No. 76 on Sam Vecenie of The Athletic’s latest 2020 board.
At 6’3, Hagans will need to become more reliable from three-point range to develop into a solid NBA player. In two seasons with Kentucky, Hagans shot just 26.5% from deep on 1.7 attempts per game. He did rise over two attempts per as a sophomore, but there is a long way to go with his long range shooting.
Offensively, Hagans’ best asset is his slashing and using his speed to get to the basket. He has the ability to change his shot mid-flight, and has decent touch around the rim. However, when defenders are able to wall off his drive, he has a tendency to throw up wild shots and that severely impacts his efficiency. His quickness makes him a tough cover off the dribble. At his size, however, his efficacy at the next level will likely be tied to his ability to improve his three-point efficiency. If he can force teams to respect him from three, every other part of his game will become easier.
His scoring efficiency numbers are bad, but it’s worth noting often times Kentucky players end up being better pros than college players. With so much talent on the roster year to year, it’s often difficult for guys to individually get numbers that reflect their talent. That is no excuse for a lack of efficiency, but there’s little doubt that Hagans could have been a higher usage player at another school.
Still, the shooting efficiency numbers are concerning. Per Synergy Sports, Hagans graded as average, below average, or poor in the following categories: transition (poor), overall halfcourt (average), pick-and-roll ball-handler (average), spot-up (average), catch-and-shoot (below average). The one area of scoring he graded as excellent in was isolation, where he scored 38 points on 32 possessions. So while he was only averaging a couple of isos per game, he was able to capitalize on his opportunities.
As a passer, he does possess excellent floor vision. He grades as excellent when passing out of pick-and-roll, raising his overall pick-and-roll grade into the 71st percentile. He also grades as an excellent passer out of his isolation possessions. At the next level, however, teams will not be as prone to help defense on a player that lacks efficiency in the ways that Hagans has so far.
Defensively, he’s energetic and does a nice job making opposing guards work for everything. Whether it’s full court or halfcourt pressure, Hagans has the ability to pester the opposition with his speed and hands. Sometimes he can be too aggressive and get himself out of position, but effort is always better than a lack of effort, especially defensively. He has the tools to be a solid defender.
He averaged nearly two steals a game this past season, and has a knack for picking opposing guards’ pockets in the backcourt and finishing on the other end. He’s extremely aggressive with his hands, and his 6’6 wingspan provides optimism that he could become a solid NBA point-of-attack and/or wing defender. He’s still fairly raw defensively, but his speed is legitimate and that combined with his length has the potential to be something.
A comparison could be Iman Shumpert, who was also a top-15 recruit who spent a couple years in a major conference before heading to the draft. Shumpert had some decent years with the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers as a defensive specialist. Hagans has a ways to go to even match the shooting ability of Shumpert, but an energetic defensive specialist with speed and decent length is the mold he most likely fits if he’s able to stick around. He’s a notably better passer than Shumpert, while it obviously remains to be seen if he’s able to impact the defensive end the way Shumpert did in his good years.
As far as the Hawks are concerned, Hagans may or may not be an ideal target at No. 50. Perhaps he’s someone they like, but with Brandon Goodwin already on the roster as an energetic backup guard, perhaps they would look to take a late flier on someone at another position. As far as a Two-Way goes, if Atlanta believes Hagans shot is bound for drastic improvement, there are certainly worse options.