It is “What if?” Week on SB Nation and, through that lens, NBA sites executed do-overs for the first round of 2014, 2015 and 2016 NBA Drafts. While the Atlanta Hawks didn’t actually execute a first round pick in 2015 (thanks to the Tim Hardaway Jr. trade on draft night), the team did fire on a total of three first round selections in 2014 and 2016.
Here is a look at the 2014 edition.
The 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks were arguably the best team in recent franchise history, winning 60 games and earning the organization’s only berth in the Eastern Conference Finals since moving from St. Louis. The majesty of that team has been well-documented, both in this space and otherwise, but it is also worth remembering that the Hawks had the No. 15 pick in the NBA Draft just months before the 60-win journey began.
In short, the pick Atlanta used to draft former Michigan State big man Adreian Payne was regrettable. After just three (!) games and 19 total minutes in a Hawks uniform, a decision by the front office to flip Payne to the Minnesota Timberwolves — in a deal that eventually brought Kevin Huerter to Atlanta with the No. 19 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft — proved to be wise.
While things worked out quite well for the Hawks from an asset perspective, four years passed between the selection of Payne and the pick that landed Huerter. Atlanta would not take Payne in 2014 if they had to do it over again and, with that as the backdrop, a 2014 re-draft takes on an interesting life.
For context purposes, this is how the first 14 picks of a re-draft of the first round went between SB Nation’s NBA writers, setting the table for the Hawks to make their choice at No. 15 overall.
- No. 1 pick - Joel Embiid
- No. 2 pick - Nikola Jokic
- No. 3 pick - Marcus Smart
- No. 4 pick - Aaron Gordon
- No. 5 pick - Spencer Dinwiddie
- No. 6 pick - Zach LaVine
- No. 7 pick - Jusuf Nurkic
- No. 8 pick - Clint Capela
- No. 9 pick - Julius Randle
- No. 10 pick - Andrew Wiggins
- No. 11 pick - Gary Harris
- No. 12 pick - Joe Harris
- No. 13 pick - Dario Saric
- No. 14 pick - Bogdan Bogdanovic
While the order is up for interpretation (and argument), the top 14 picks are perfectly reasonable when attempting to assess the best 14 players from that draft class. However, the player that the Hawks “acquire” in this re-draft is, at least in the view of Peachtree Hoops, the best candidate to crash the party and a player that probably should have been selected a bit earlier.
That player is former Phoenix Suns and current Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren.
Warren was actually the No. 14 pick in 2014 and he, of course, lands in a similar range here. However, it would be easy to argue that Warren was actually under-drafted originally, especially if you believe that his 2019-20 performance might represent a new normal for the next few years.
In 2019-20, Warren averaged 18.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 61 appearances for the Pacers. While he has always been a proficient scorer, Warren’s strides as a perimeter shooter — 40.1 percent from three-point range in the last two seasons — are substantial, and that trait greatly aids in his development as an offensive force.
Beyond that, Warren put together what was easily the best defensive showing of his career this season in Indiana. It would be fair to wonder how sustainable that may be but, on the flip side, Warren is now in a more stable organizational structure (sorry, Phoenix) and his 2019-20 season was legitimately impressive.
Overall, Warren is now a more-than-solid starting forward with legitimate two-way appeal. That may not be overly sexy but, with the No. 15 pick, Warren would represent an excellent value, especially when taking into account that he has been a rotation-quality player for the last five seasons.
As a matter of context, here are the picks made directly after the Hawks “selected” Warren in this re-draft.
- Rodney Hood
- Jerami Grant
- Dwight Powell
- Jabari Parker
- Elfrid Payton
- Jordan Clarkson
- Doug McDermott
Some of these players can be helpful to NBA teams, bringing interesting skills to the table if deployed in the right role. If 2019-20 is remotely real for Warren, though, he is (quite) clearly better than the other available options and, well, that means it was a relatively easy selection for Peachtree Hoops in the role of interim Hawks GM in retrospect.