Wednesday morning, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic released his latest and potentially final mock draft of the 2021 cycle. In this edition, he pegged Keon Johnson, the high-flying wing out of Tennessee, as the Atlanta Hawks selection at No. 20. Here’s Vecenie’s reasoning and summary of the mock selection:
The player: An elite athlete, Johnson has the kind of twitch and explosion most players only dream of possessing. At 6-foot-5, he can jump out of the gym and has burst as a driver. He’s also an elite defender on the ball already, where he uses that length and quickness to cause issues for players at the one through three spots. He’s just very raw on offense. The jumper needs work, as he’s essentially a non-shooter right now — at least efficiently. He also needs to work on his handle and driving ability. But once Tennessee let him loose late in the season, Johnson was pretty good. He averaged 14.4 points, four rebounds and three assists over his final 12 games, including a bevy of impressive highlights that showcase what his upside is if he can keep rounding out his game.
The fit: Another wild card. Johnson is an extremely polarizing player for front offices. Some love his athletic upside and see him as a real potential offensive playmaker. Others just strongly believe that he’s not going to shoot it, and that he’s a bit too loose with the ball. I’ve heard anywhere from top 10 to mid-20s for Johnson from teams. But unfortunately, someone just kind of has to fall on draft night. In this iteration of the mock, Johnson is one of those fallers. It wouldn’t surprise me if I get intel later in the week that says to move him up. No one I’ve spoken with has a great feel for the Hawks right now after their deep run in the playoffs. They’re pretty set across the board positionally, with the only true need being a backup point guard for Trae Young if Lou Williams was to depart. Johnson isn’t really that, but he’s a great on-ball defender that would complement Young in the backcourt.
Perhaps the most notable piece of this section is the “No one I’ve spoken with has a great feel for the Hawks right now after their deep run in the playoffs,” part. It’s something that has kind of been out there when talking about the draft relating to the Hawks, the fact that they don’t really have a true need, and probably wouldn’t address that need at No. 20 even if they did have one.
GM Travis Schlenk has been stubborn with his “best player available” strategy, and with the way the majority of his picks with the Hawks have turned out, why would he change his strategy now? Addressing the backup point guard spot may be something Atlanta does with the No. 20 pick, but based on Schlenk’s history, it’s something he would only do if he also thought the player was either the best player remaining on the board, or on the same level with other prospects he may like at that spot. Both John Collins (2017) and Kevin Huerter (2018) were selected with the No. 19 pick, so Schlenk is probably the last guy that is going to take some point guard he doesn’t love at No. 20 based on “need”. He will have some guys he sees as high-upside identified, and hope one of them makes it that far down the board on draft night.
Vecenie pegged Greg Brown to the Hawks at the No. 48 pick. Brown is a high upside/low floor type of talent, someone that Atlanta may be attracted to that late in the draft. Again, with no true needs on the roster, it wouldn’t seem like the worst idea to take a big swing on someone like Brown who has flashed a great deal of potential throughout his amateur career, put didn’t quite put all of it together on the court at Texas.
The rumors are only beginning, and will certainly keep coming ahead of next week’s draft. If you want to stay locked in on all of our draft coverage, bookmark this link that has all of our scouting profiles for the 2021 class in one place.