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NBA Mock Draft: Tyrese Haliburton to Hawks in final projection from The Athletic

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NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

With less than 60 hours to the 2020 NBA Draft at the time of this post, final mock drafts are being filed across the basketball landscape. On Monday morning, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic joined the party with a 60-player projection and, while he did send Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr. to the Atlanta Hawks with the No. 50 pick, most of the attention is on the action at No. 6 overall.

In the end, Vecenie projects the Hawks to select Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton, and he describes Haliburton in the following way.

Haliburton’s feel for the game is just absolutely off the charts. He has a case for having the highest basketball IQ in this draft class. He makes the right decision all the time. That starts as a ballhandler. Haliburton is an extremely high-level passer out of all situations. He’ll make the head-man pass in transition Sees everything and plays unselfishly. The game is not about his numbers despite the fact that he put up great numbers this year. Despite not exactly being a high-level pick-and-roll scorer, he can make every pass in the book as a pick-and-roll passer. He also shoots it really well off the catch despite funky mechanics, and he’s a smart team defender. The weakness here is that he’s not much of a pull-up threat, and is far from the crazy level of athlete that NBA lead guards tend to be. But in the right role, Haliburton can affect winning at a really, really high level.

For reference, the Hawks choose Haliburton over a number of intriguing options in this mock draft, with Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, Devin Vassell and Killian Hayes all available for Atlanta. As such, differing opinions will arrive on the Haliburton choice but, at the same time, this has been a popular pairing for a long time, and Vecenie goes on to explain the fit that he sees between player and team.

The Hawks are certainly entertaining trade offers as well, and will see what comes across their desk as the week continues. It wouldn’t be stunning to see them move out of the No. 6 pick. General manager Travis Schlenk has moved around quite a bit in his recent draft history, orchestrating the deal for Trae Young on draft night in 2018, as well as the deal to move up to acquire De’Andre Hunter. So he’ll always be active. The name I hear most associated with the Hawks if they keep the pick is Haliburton. It’s easy to see why. He’s 6-5 and can play both on or off the ball next to Young and Kevin Huerter. He’s skinny, but he’s the kind of highly skilled backcourt piece who could allow them to unlock a lot of lineup iterations and a lot of offensive sets. You can push Trae off the ball next to Haliburton, you can play Haliburton as a secondary ballhandler, you can go super small and play Young, Haliburton, Huerter and Cam Reddish if you want. Haliburton would be a really strong lineup connector piece for them in lineups with Young, and he’d have the added benefit of taking care of the team’s disastrous backup point guard situation.

Evaluations of Haliburton differ in terms of just how effective he will be as an on-ball creator and point-of-attack defender. With that said, the 6’5 guard draws rave reviews across the board for his maturity, character and overall makeup, with virtually no doubts about his passing, off-ball defense and overall basketball IQ.

It will be interesting to see if Haliburton is available when the Hawks are on the clock and, of course, Atlanta could move on from the No. 6 pick rather than staying put and making a selection. Still, it won’t be a surprise to anyone if the Hawks end up with Haliburton as a versatile, intriguing combo guard that pairs well with Trae Young and the rest of Atlanta’s young core.

Stay tuned.