On Thursday evening, the Atlanta Hawks netted the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft after the league executed its lottery process in a virtual presentation. With that knowledge, Travis Schlenk and Atlanta’s front office can begin putting the finishing touches on a draft board for use on Friday, Oct. 16 and, while the draft itself is eight weeks away, it is never too early to look ahead at some options that the Hawks could evaluate.
Peachtree Hoops has been churning out NBA Draft scouting reports since March and, in the coming days, deep dives will emerge on many more prospects, including the projected lottery picks referenced below. As always, a lot can change between now and mid-October, to the point where other players could jump into the mix or the Hawks could elect to trade the selection. In the meantime, however, here is a quick list of the players that the Hawks could consider at No. 6 overall.
Note: Prospects are in alphabetical order and, while it isn’t impossible that Anthony Edwards and/or LaMelo Ball could slide, this is an attempt to be realistic.
- Cole Anthony (North Carolina) — Some NBA teams may view Anthony as a lead guard and, well, the Hawks don’t have a need at that position. Others may believe Anthony is better as a secondary option, and that lands him on the list. It was a weird year at North Carolina, but Anthony has top-end pedigree, and he is underrated as a catch-and-shoot threat that can defend when needed. He certainly isn’t a great fit for the Hawks, but most still view him as a lottery pick.
- Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv) — Avdija isn’t the only player on this list to be linked to the Hawks in a mock draft or two, but it’s been a relatively popular notion in recent weeks. The 6’9 forward has two-way equity, with enough athleticism and physicality to hold up defensively and enough skill to provide secondary creation on the offensive end. Scouts are split on his jump shot, even when acknowledging recent gains in that area, and Avdija may be less of an on-ball threat than some believe. In the end, however, he appears to be on the radar and would be a perfectly reasonable pick in this range as another forward option for the Hawks.
- Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State) — Haliburton is an exceptionally interesting prospect. On one hand, he is a limited athlete that didn’t display the ability to blow by defenders off the dribble. On the other, he is a top-notch shooter with an incredibly impressive basketball IQ, and Haliburton is a very strong passer. He isn’t a “point guard” in the traditional sense, but Haliburton checks a lot of boxes, particularly with his off-ball defensive ability.
- Killian Hayes (Ulm) — Though Hayes is less known than many lottery-bound prospects, the 6’5 guard has tremendous appeal. As a lead guard, Hayes is a dynamic creator and passer, with a developing jump shot and impressive feel. As an off-ball player, the sample is a bit more mixed, but Hayes does bring good defensive tools to the table. Intel-based draft observers are a bit lower on Hayes, perhaps indicating a skepticism in league circles, but Hayes has the potential to return top-three value. One question, though, would be his fit next to a primary creator in Young.
- Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky) — After a less than spectacular overall performance, Maxey is slipping in some circles, and that makes sense. In fact, it might feel like a stretch to think the Hawks could take him in this spot. He does bring an impressive pre-college pedigree to the table, and Maxey would give the Hawks another creator with an effective in-between game and the potential to defend both guard spots at a high level. One would need to believe in his pre-college sample to invest a top-eight pick, but Kentucky prospects (i.e. Devin Booker and Bam Adebayo) have slipped too far in recent years based on limited college deployment and that could apply to Maxey on some level.
- Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt) — Candidly, this might be a little bit high for Nesmith, but he makes the cut as a prospect that ranks in the top 12 on both of the most prominent, intel-based big boards from The Athletic and ESPN. Nesmith’s primary appeal comes with his shooting, which is an area in which the Hawks (and any NBA team) could improve. He converted more than 50 (!) percent of his three-pointers this season, albeit in a small sample, and he can shoot off the catch and on the move. There is a chance that Nesmith is more of a specialist but, if he can use his solid frame to become an average-or-better defender, things could get quite interesting as a quality starter long-term.
- Onyeka Okongwu (USC) — While James Wiseman is the more heralded prospect, Okongwu was excellent during his freshman season at USC and he has more defensive versatility. He was highly productive in college, even when asked to play out of position at the 4, and Okongwu can fit into a number of defensive coverages. He certainly wouldn’t be a “sexy” pick, but Okongwu has one of the highest floors in the class, even if the Hawks don’t have a defined need in the frontcourt.
- Isaac Okoro (Auburn) — Okoro has been a popular mock draft target for the Hawks and The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie revealed — on the Locked on Hawks podcast — that Atlanta is thought to be high on him. Okoro is perhaps the best on-ball defender in the class, using top-end athleticism and strength to shadow opponents. Offensively, though, there are questions about his jump shot which permeate the evaluation. Still, Okoro is underrated as an offensive creator, particularly when attacking the rim, and his defense is impressive.
- Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos B) — This is a weird one. On one side, NBA teams are seemingly (much) more skeptical, with intel-based big boards placing him outside the lottery. On the other, evaluators that favor swings on upside absolutely love Pokusevski, with the 7-foot teenager bringing a number of appealing skills to the table. Make no mistake, it would be a highly aggressive decision to take him this high, but if you want upside, he has it.
- Obi Toppin (Dayton) — In short, Toppin was probably the best player in college basketball last season. He was incredibly efficient and productive offensively in leading Dayton into the national conversation and, on the offensive end, there are few questions about Toppin. He is potentially a high-end pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop big man, with explosive vertical burst and some creation equity to boot. Defensively, it is far less encouraging, with Toppin battling questions about his versatility and ability to move side-to-side. Finally, he is (by far) the oldest projected lottery pick in 2020, turning 23 in March, and that adds to the polarization about his prospect status.
- Devin Vassell (Florida State) — Vassell wasn’t always seen as a lottery pick and, in some circles, a spot in the top eight still might be seen as controversial. However, the Florida State wing provides a lot of role player equity, with the upside for more. Vassell was a very strong three-point shooter in college, and he is probably the best off-ball defensive prospect in the class. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but Vassell knows how to play on both ends and, while he may not be a “swing for the fences,” every team in the league could use a player with his skill set.
- Patrick Williams (Florida State) — Rumblings indicate Williams could be a late-rising prospect in this class. The 6’8 combo forward is a highly explosive athlete, and he is very strong physically. He is certainly raw, but Williams is quite young, with intriguing two-way upside if he can make strides in terms of his shooting and overall awareness.
- James Wiseman (Memphis) — Admittedly, Wiseman is an exceptionally difficult evaluation, and he may be long gone before Atlanta’s get on the board to make a selection. On one hand, he was a consensus top-three prospect coming out of high school and his athletic tools are top-notch, ranging from his 7-foot frame (with a 7’6 wingspan) to his fluidity. Wiseman is a true center, though, and his offensive skill package is divisive, to say the least. Many in the NBA still view him as a top-three prospect, but others are more pessimistic, citing league trends and the potential for a relatively uninspiring offensive package. In the end, Wiseman is still a (very) intriguing prospect and, even with the Hawks being set at center with Clint Capela, he could be a “best player available” choice.
Stay tuned for continuing coverage of the 2020 NBA Draft, with scouting reports to come on each and every prospect referenced above.