Atlanta Hawks Draft Day Thoughts

Graham Chapple —  June 24, 2016
Photo cred: Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty Images

It’s been a wild couple of days.

The Hawks managed to secure themselves the 12th overall pick to add to their own 21st pick. But it came at a cost: Jeff Teague is gone, headed to Indiana in the same deal will send George Hill to Utah and (from Utah) the 12th overall pick to Atlanta. Now, the trade hasn’t been made official yet (and probably won’t until July), so the Hawks can’t actually confirm Prince as their draft pick, but you can take it on good faith that the Jazz selected for the Hawks last night.

12th overall pick

With the 12th pick the Hawks drafted Taurean Prince out of Baylor. I was ecstatic with the Hawks selecting Prince, I think he’s an excellent fit for the Hawks, possessing a lot of tools that the Hawks like in their wing players.

From Part 2 of our Hawks Draft Preview:

Prince, meanwhile, possesses very good height for a small forward, standing 6’8 tall (with a 6’11.5 wingspan to boot). He looks great physically, with a strong frame to accompany his other strong physical attributes. Prince’s size and his long arms would also help the Hawks improve a facet of their game that could always do with improvement — rebounding.

He’s exactly the kind of wing the Hawks need — defense, three-point shooting, defensive length (6’11.5 ft), legitimate size (6’8) — and I can envision him playing a significant role for the team next season. I’m a firm believer that he’s going to be a (possibly very) good defender, but it’s worth noting that Baylor did play a zone defense so we don’t have the full picture when it comes to Prince’s defense, but I have no reason to doubt it.

His offense I think is quite underrated. He’s much better on the offensive end than you may expect a defense first kind of guy.

But Prince’s game isn’t just limited to what he’s able to do on the defensive end: he can be effective on the offensive end too. While his three-point shooting slid from 40% to 36% this season (partly because he slid into the starting lineup for Baylor for the first time in his fourth season and lead the team in scoring, drawing more attention to him), he’s still a 38% career three-point shooter.

His pull-up game is good, he can shoot decently off of screens, and he also possesses a surprising slashing ability, specialising more so straight line slashes. He’s a good cutter, which will be of great benefit to him if he is drafted by the Hawks, who love to use a lot of cutting actions in their offense. He’s a decent passer, has a great motor, and knows how to use his size to his advantage.

I can’t stress that enough: the cutting — it’s going to serve him so well.

I really thought the Hawks could’ve selected him at 21, but there was no guarantee that he would’ve been available at that spot, so the Hawks decided to snap their man up while they could. Some say that taking Prince at 12 was a mistake, just because they could’ve taken him at 21 instead, but let me ask you this: was there really anyone available at 12 that was significantly better than Prince and if there was, would that player really prove to be a better fit with the Hawks (and what they try to do) than Prince? Did you want Georgios Papagiannis at 12? Henry Ellenson? Juan Hernangomez? Seriously, who did you want that, realistically, has a better chance of actually fitting in? None of these other players available are that much better than Prince to warrant drafting them ahead of him. If someone like Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray were available then it’s a completely different story…

I initially thought that the Hawks went too soon for Prince at 12 but, when you actually think about it, the Hawks made the right choice.

21st overall pick

With the 21st pick the Hawks selected DeAndre’ Bembry out of St. Joseph’s. I asked the question before the draft whether Bembry would remain a Hawk on Thursday and the answer turned out to be yes! I thought the Hawks would initially draft Deyonta Davis — a nice rebounder and shot blocker who had slipped below his projected place — with the 21st pick, but they decided to add another wing in Bembry.

I said before the draft that Bembry was an overlooked player heading into this draft but that he possesses a lot of qualities that would find a lot of usage in Atlanta, and the Hawks seemed to share the same thinking. Bembry possesses a lot of very good qualities that will acclimate him very well in Atlanta. Again, from Part 2 of our Draft Preview…

Well, he’s pretty bouncy out on there the court, certainly possessing a lot more hops than Denzel Valentine does. Bembry enjoys playing above the rim and he’s more than capable of doing so.

Bembry is very good in the open court. His long strides (and a nifty euro-step move to boot) and creativity, both around the rim and in the open court, opened up a lot for the Hawks. No, no, not the Hawks Hawks, but the St. Joseph’s Hawks, where he played his college ball… I was so surprised when I saw just how good he is around the rim (where he shot 63%), he’s very creative. His ability to finish at the rim helps complete his slashing game, which is also very impressive. If I were to describe Bembry in a nutshell, I would describe him like this: The dude can get to the rim, man.

But he’s just as good without the ball as he is with it — he’s an excellent cutter which, again, is a talent that would serve him very well in Atlanta, who love to use off the ball cuts as part of their offense. Bembry can also mix it up in the post, where he can be pretty effective for someone who is 6’6. He’s not the shooter Valentine is, but he’s capable of knocking some shots down, that’s for sure. He did shoot a lacklustre 26% from behind the arc, but his jump shot isn’t Tony Allen broken. It can, and probably will, be adjusted.

Bembry is also a good rebounder, and when he grabs a rebound (much like Valentine) he likes to make things happen. And boy, he can make things happen. He’s a very good passer, I was amazed by his feel for the game. He just knows when and how to find his teammates, whether it’s in transition, in pick-and-roll, or off of penetration. His creativity and playmaking (described as “highly unselfish”) would find a great home with the Hawks under Coach Bud.

Hawks GM Wes Wilcox said one of the Hawks’ focuses in this draft was athleticism, and they certainly get that with Bembry.

Wilcox also praised Bembry’s playmaking ability, so it’s possible that the thinking behind this pick would be to have Bembry as another option to occasionally handle the ball off of the bench. Again, his unique abilities will serve him very well in Atlanta and I think, between him and Prince, Bembry will have a little more of a reserved role this season but he’s going to be a very interesting player going forward.

Second round and other thoughts

Moving onto the second round, the Hawks selected Isaia Cordinier with the 44th overall pick. He’s a shooting guard from France and I’m not going to lie I haven’t the slightest clue about him — only that he’s probably staying in France this year and joining the Hawks in 2017. The Hawks then sold the 54th pick to the Cavs for a reported $2.5 million. Not much to say about the second round, really.

I don’t it’s a secret that the Hawks were trying to sell these two first round picks, but once they selected Prince (who they had worked out twice prior to the draft) you got a clear indication that they were probably keeping these two picks.

So, the Hawks drafted two wing players in the same summer which Kent Bazemore is due to be a free agent. Like I’ve mentioned before, Kent Bazemore is the exit the Hawks should be preparing for, not Al Horford’s, and they seem to have done exactly that here. Despite drafting two wing players (in addition to Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefolosha, and Tim Hardaway Jr. all being under contract), Hawks GM Wes Wilcox has said that re-signing Bazemore remains a major priority this summer.

“I will say Kent Bazemore is absolutely a Hawks priority. We love Kent. He is a huge part of what we do. I don’t think there should be any confusion as to how important Kent is to us.” — Hawks GM Wes Wilcox

I’m not quite sure I totally buy into that. I personally think actions speak louder than words, and the Hawks drafting three wing players (even though one of them won’t be joining quite yet) and not a single big man with any of their four picks — a little surprising considering Horford is a free agent — really says something. But look, we’ll see what happens…

Overall, a very solid draft for the Hawks. I’m personally a huge fan of Prince and I think Bembry is really going to surprise some fans out there, whether it’s this year or in the near future.

Graham Chapple