The Atlanta Hawks find themselves in a puzzlingly-privileged position among the 2020 NBA Draft’s pool of poor participants. Unlike the lottery veterans from New York or Chicago, Atlanta already sports their franchise player for the next decade. For the Hawks, their focus is less about finding a superstar and more about finding a player to take some pressure off Trae Young, their transcendent floor general.
Which means, for Atlanta, the absence of a true topline, Zion Williamson-style prospect is less of an issue for the Hawks than other cellar-dwellers.
The Hawks have accrued a collection of promise-laden prospects like Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Bruno Fernando, and Kevin Huerter over the last two years. All of whom the team hope can turn into viable starters, but who are unproven at the moment. John Collins is the presumptive number-two option, but his abilities may be more suited to being a sixth-man because of his defensive shortcomings.
So while the Hawks have a fine rabble of promising prospects, none of them are so outstanding that the Hawks should pass on a high-potential draftee at a similar position. Even though the NBA season may not even be finished and the draft order is not set, it is a nigh certainty Atlanta will be picking within the top five. Here is a quintet of possible players the Hawks may pick when the draft does (eventually) take place:
Anthony Edwards – 6’4 220 lb. SG – Georgia
Pros: The nominal “top prospect” in this year’s draft is a local product, having spent his lone year in Athens. At his best, Edwards could be the off-ball killer the Hawks desperately need to lighten Young’s playmaking burden. Blessed with prototypical size and freakish athleticism, Edwards is someone who can compete in the NBA from day one. Despite sporting an unseemly shooting percentage, Edwards has a beautiful shot off the dribble and can get shots up over any defender. His lightning-quick first step allows him to get into the lane at will, which would provide the Hawks with a dribble-drive threat none of the other (non-Young) Hawks provide.
Cons: Edwards’ myriad of physical gifts were wasted on possession after possession in college, with him appearing disinterested for long stretches at a time. Rather than blasting toward the rim with aplomb, Edwards would repeatedly settle for inefficient jumpers from three-point range. Despite shooting a ghastly 29 percent from distance, Edwards chucked up half of his shots from here. Defensively, Edwards flashes an ability to defend one through four, but like on offense, his effort can be poor once off-ball. Anytime a player is consistently compared to Andrew Wiggins, that has to be concerning for a NBA who is looking for a transformative player who will lead (or help lead) the franchise in the long-term.
James Wiseman – 7’1 250 lb. Center – Memphis
Pros: Wiseman has classic center size and new-age wingspan, but he also sports fluid movement and can play above the rim. This unique package could benefit the Hawks defensively, where after Clint Capela, the Hawks have no proven rim protectors on the roster. With Wiseman on the team, Hawks fans would never need to see John Collins play center ever again, which would be a blessing for all parties involved. Unlike Capela, the Memphis product has range on his jumpshot and could possibly space the floor on offense when not diving to the rim on rolls or posting up smaller players. His footspeed is good enough to keep up with guards on occasional switches, and he may have enough mobility to guard power forwards from time to time.
Cons: The cons with Wiseman begin and end with the fact that scouts and teams saw him play a grand total of three games in Memphis before being suspended for NCAA violations. His gaudy statistics came in wins against South Carolina State, Illinois-Chicago, and a loss against Oregon. Wiseman has hardly been tested defensively against high-caliber opponents, and his rotations against flimsy competition left much to be desired. Offensively, Wiseman enjoys taking jumpshots, which in and of itself is not a terrible thing. However, Wiseman is not Karl Anthony-Towns from the perimeter, making those long-distance shots feel like wasted possessions. But overall, a NBA team has no idea if they are selecting the next Skal Labissiere (who dominated early in 2015 before crumbling against real competition) or someone with actual NBA ability.
Deni Avdija – 6’9 220 lb. SF/PF – Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
Pros: The Israeli teenager possesses all the physical attributes of a modern-day forward who can switch defensively as easily as he can run in transition. Avdija is an excellent athlete and can zoom up and down the floor in a fast-paced game, and is also a threat to cut to the rim in the halfcourt. With the ball in his hands, Avdija is comfortable handling the ball, and is gifted at attacking a closeout and taking it all the way to the rim. While not a full-time point forward, Avdija can and does show a gift for making passes in the half and open court, especially in the pick and roll. His ability to play without the ball would be beneficial for Atlanta as they empower Trae Young to be the engine of the offense, and defensive versatility can only help whatever team Avdija lands on.
Cons: For all of Avdija’s skills, he does not project to be a peerless scorer or a singular defensive presence. His shooting from outside of the paint is spotty, and Avdija’s unsightly 50 percent mark from the free throw line indicates he may not have much of a future as a good shooter. While an opportunistic scorer, Avdija is not a player who will warp a defense with the ball in his hands. With Hunter and Reddish already on the team, there is a question of whether the Hawks really need another jack-of-all-trades hybrid wing in the rotation. While his defensive contributions would be beneficial to Atlanta and his playmaking would be a useful compliment to Young, Avdija’s skillset seems a bit redundant when looking at the rest of the roster.
Obi Toppin – 6’9 220 lb. PF – Dayton
Pros: Winner of the Naismith Award and the AP Player of the Year, Dayton’s superstar dominated college and looked primed for a deep run into the NCAA tournament pre-COVID. Toppin is quite-possibly the most polished scorer in the draft and is a threat to get buckets at all three levels of the floor. His boundless athleticism and shooting touch draw apt comparisons to a mid-2000’s Amar’e Stoudemire. In isolation, Toppin utilizes jump hooks against smaller defenders, and can use his foot speed to jet around the lumbering ones. Toppin is a good passer and can handle double teams comfortably. When screening the pick and roll, he is a threat to pop out to three point line for a trey just as much as he is to sky above the pack for a thundering dunk. He could provide a steady scoring option for the Hawks in the halfcourt when Trae Young has to rest, and could create open three point shots when he rolls to the rim.
Cons: Unfortunately for NBA teams, those Amar’e Stoudemire comparisons also apply to the defensive side of the ball, where Toppin’s small frame makes him easy to move out of the way for larger players. And in the NBA, nearly everyone is a larger player. While an explosive run-and-jump athlete, Toppin can be a bit stiff in side-to-side movement, and he can be burned when facing quicker assignments. Toppin’s defensive awareness is also questioned by many, with clips of him appearing lost on rotations plentiful and painful viewing experience. For the Hawks, Toppin’s scoring could be welcomed, but his overall offensive skillset is similar to John Collins. And because Toppin’s defense is a question mark, his ability to make a positive impact for Atlanta already-porous defense could be questioned.
LaMelo Ball – 6’7 180 lb. PG – Illawara Hawks (Australia)
Pros: The youngest of the three Ball brothers has had a strange path to the NBA, but after spending a season in Australia, LaMelo Ball is primed to become a top pick in the draft. His value comes from his absurd passing ability, which is rivaled by only 2015 D’Angelo Russell in terms of pre-draft hype. Whether it be making a skip pass to a shooter, or a fullcourt overhead bomb to start a fastbreak, or a pinpoint delivery to the roll man, Ball can make every pass. While not a good defender, his size and length provide tangible reasons to believe he could become a passable one in time. Ball is comfortable taking shots off the dribble and from a variety of angles, and can get to the rim with the help of a screen.
Cons: Ball is best-suited as a lead guard, something he will never be in Atlanta as long as Trae Young suits up for the Hawks. He is inactive off-ball and for all of his shot-happy tendencies, a 25 percent shooter like Ball would not take pressure off Young. He is currently an abysmal finisher at the rim because his slight frame makes it easy for defenders to knock him off balance. While Ball provides glimpses into a future as a havoc-wreaking pest on the perimeter, he currently spends most defensive possessions appearing lost and confused. So while Ball would be a fun selection and would make Atlanta THE team to watch on League Pass, his skillset does not appear to mesh well with the Hawks. On top of this, his negatives are so glaring they may not offset the good he brings to the table.
Who do you think the Hawks should select in the 2020 draft? Is it one of these players, or maybe another prospect not listed here? You can contact the author at Joseph.email@example.com .