ATLANTA (CBS46) – Now that the Atlanta Hawks know when they will be drafting in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft; the focus finally turns to which players will possibly be available when Atlanta finally goes on the clock with pick number eight.
The Hawks have gone young in recent years and have built a solid foundation with star rookie point guard Trae Young and second year power forward John Collins. Around that duo, the Hawks have added Kevin Huerter, a 6’7” shooting guard who shot 39% from behind the three-point line last season and small forward Taurean Prince who averaged 13.5 points per game last season while also shooting 39 percent from three.
The Hawks will also have valuable cap space coming open this year and next. Currently, the Hawks have $24.5 million in cap space available during this free agency period. If they renounced all their cap holds and exceptions, the total cap space jumps to $49 million. Next year, they could free even more cap space when they clear the $31.7 million being paid to Kent Bazemore and Miles Plumlee off the books.
But that’s a completely different story for when free agency nears. For the Hawks, they have a few options going into the 2019 NBA Draft.
Option 1: make the selections at 8 and 10 in the first round. This is the most likely scenario as the Hawks continue to build a roster capable of challenging in the Eastern Conference as Collins and Young continue to develop their game.
Option 2: package the picks together to go up higher in the draft. While this happens a lot in other sports, it’s usually tough to pull off in the NBA. It can be done, but it’s less likely to happen.
Option 3: trade one or both picks for a current NBA player. If the Hawks were closer to being an annual contender, this might be the path they would take. However, the team is still a year or two away from being a playoff team.
Assuming the Hawks follow option one, early NBA mock drafts have been all over the place trying to place the players after the top three of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett. Here are some of the early names that have been mocked to the Hawks:
Cam Reddish (forward, Duke Blue Devils) – while big things were expected of him coming out of high school, he had a lackluster freshman season for the Blue Devils. He finished averaging 13.5 points per game on an abysmal 35.6 percent shooting. Reddish can be a scorer as his high school tapes show and it’s possible he was swallowed up by the hype with Williamson and Barrett. He is an efficient ball handler and he’s got an improving game off pick and roll action. The question is which Reddish a team will get when he is drafted; the gifted high school phenom, or the athletically gifted but poor shooting Duke player.
Jaxson Hayes (center, Texas) – Hayes stands 6’11” and would be an imposing presence alongside Collins in the frontcourt. He was a bit of a late bloomer at Texas but did develop his game throughout his freshman season. His block percentage of 10.6 rated 19th nationally and he shot 73 percent from the field, mainly because most of his shots were dunks. Hayes didn’t start a basketball until his senior year of high school, so he’s just beginning to scratch what appears to be a very high ceiling. But, can the Hawks wait two or three years if Hayes develops slowly in the NBA? Potential versus production is often one of the NBA draft’s toughest calls.
Sekou Doumbouya (forward – Limoges (Int’l.) – Doumbouya is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, but he’s been very green when it comes to basketball. He’s dominated in some European league games and international scouts have slotted him anywhere from 10-20 in the 2019 NBA Draft. He’s currently playing in the top professional league in France and would need a few years to fully develop his potential. His athleticism is undeniable though and having a possibly 6’10” slashing forward who can play above the rim is not something that comes along every day.
Jarret Culver (guard – Texas Tech) – while it’s unlikely Culver falls this low, he would be an intriguing fit in Atlanta as a facilitator and defensive 3-and-D guard. Last year, Culver averaged 18.5 points per game, but struggled from behind the arc while playing as the team’s number one option, shooting only 30 percent. The previous year, Culver shot 38.2 percent from behind the arc. He also led the Red Raiders to the NCAA Final Four and had a defensive win share of 3.5 last season.
Coby White (guard – North Carolina) – as a Tar Heel, White was a dynamic playmaker and score-first guard. While that may sound counter-intuitive with Trae Young already on the roster, two strong scoring guards can work out well (see Golden State and Portland). He’s almost a pure scorer that can also run the point. Having him as an outside threat alongside Young with Collins popping outside to open driving lanes would be tough on opposing defenses.
Nassir Little (forward – North Carolina) – he was never able to turn his potential into big production while a member of the Tar Heel. At 6’6”, he has the length to play multiple positions. He bulked up to play out of position at North Carolina, but should be able to shed the weight for lean muscle to play on the perimeter in the NBA. He was the MVP of the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game and the 2018 Jordan Brand Classic. If he can unlock that potential, he’ll be a veritable steal at the 8th or 10th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.