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. Around 100 prospects will be profiled in this space, today’s player is Baylor big man Freddie Gillespie.
With the NBA Draft now less than four months away, we still know very little in regards to pre-draft workouts and if any sort of combine would be possible. While the top tier guys may have separated themselves over the past few years, it can get a bit muddy when breaking guys outside of the top 15 or 20 into tiers. With lost games, no in-person visits to team facilities, and the potential of no combine for prospects, it will be more difficult for guys to set themselves apart down the stretch.
Baylor big man Freddie Gillespie became an effective Power 5 starter after starting his career in Division III with Carleton College. A defensive center prospect, Gillespie stands 6’9 and never attempted a three-pointer in two seasons at Baylor. However, his wingspan makes him an interesting defensive prospect. Gillespie told Jon Chepkevich of Professional Basketball Combine his wingspan is 7’6 on PBC’s 2020 NBA Draft Remote Film Room Series.
Gillespie’s path to the league is undoubtedly as someone who will do the dirty work on both ends of the court. Offensively, he presents spacing issues as he’s likely never going to shoot threes. Defensively, his wingspan is obviously a huge plus and provides promise that he might be an effective anchor despite being only 6’9. Given that he’s mostly a consensus fringe top-100 prospect, Gillespie’s most likely path to the league initially is via a Two-Way contract. It is certainly possible he’s drafted in the 50’s, though.
The spacing-driven offensive schemes that dominate the league today present challenges for Gillespie’s ability to fit within a team system. His ability to knock down an open 15-footer, combined with the fact that he appears to be a decent screener, does provide him enough offensive tools to potentially carve out a rotational role in the NBA. The 23-year old is not amazing around the rim, but he is a high effort player, and he wills in his fair share of layups, dunks and put-backs on the offensive glass. Gillespie is never going to be a prolific offensive weapon, but he’s also the type of player that gets zero plays called for him.
Gillespie had only 12 points on 24 post-up possessions for Baylor last season per Synergy Sports. This is not his strong suit. He’s the type of big that would almost exclusively score off of drop-offs from a playmaker. His role would not be far from the role Damian Jones played for the Hawks last season if Gillespie is able to stick in the league despite the size disparity in those two players.
Jones didn’t start attempting threes until he had been in the league for a while, and that’s probably the best case scenario for Gillespie as a shooter as well. He’s not the same kind of vertical athlete that Jones is, but probably has a better motor and more natural feel for the game. The point of that comparison is not to be literal, but more of an example of a Hawks player in recent memory that was able to score some because of their ability to set screens for playmakers and clean up around the basket.
With Atlanta set for the 2020-21 season at center with Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon, Bruno Fernando and John Collins all set to return, the addition of Gillespie would seem unlikely for the Hawks. Even if Atlanta did need center depth, Gillespie is not the type of big Travis Schlenk has been prone to take a flier on in the second round of previous drafts.
In 2018, Schlenk drafted Omari Spellman with the No. 30 overall pick. Then, in 2019, he selected Fernando with the No. 34 pick. Both of those prospects were billed as offensive minded centers with above average ball skill for their position, but perhaps question marks defensively. That is quite the opposite of Freddie Gillespie.