With the 2014 NBA Draft just a couple of days away, mock drafts have predicted the Hawks to go in several different directions with their 15th overall pick. Chad Ford‘s latest work has Atlanta selecting Shabazz Napier as a replacement for Jeff Teague, while Yahoo! Sports expects the Hawks to take Jusuf Nurkic so they can “move Al Horford to his more natural power forward position.” Though nothing can be said for certain as to who the Hawks will be drafting on Thursday night, there’s plenty to sort out as far as what they don’t need, what they might and what they do need.
- A center to “move Al Horford to his more natural power forward position.” Why is this still being said? Al Horford was on his way to having the best season of his career at the five. The NBA is progressively getting smaller so Atlanta wants a 6’10” unproven three-point shooter at the four? What happens to Paul Millsap? Is any center available at this point going to even turn out to be anything more than a decent starter? This is silly.
- A shooting guard that can shoot. Kyle Korver is doing this pretty darn well. Of all the players in Atlanta’s starting five that can potentially be replaced down the line by a better player in pursuit of a championship, Korver will be one of the last to go, simple because he is the perfect role player. Barring injury, the starting two spot should be his for a long time. A shooting guard off the bench is another story, but we’ll get to that later.
- A point guard to replace Jeff Teague. The idea that the Hawks front office isn’t satisfied with Teague as their point guard of the future isn’t a new one, nor is it overly hard to believe. Still, his up-and-down season was due in part to all of the injuries the team suffered and he played a strong series against the Indiana Pacers. But even if Atlanta truly wanted another point guard to take the reins – which seems like a stretch – will they really find that guy with the 15th pick? This move is too big a risk with Teague finally having the opportunity to play under a coach that can maximize his ability.
- A backup center. As this past season showed, having too much depth is never a bad thing. Atlanta’s bigs were hit by injury one by one, from Horford to Antic to Ayon, eventually calling for the Hawks to import their second round pick in 2013 – Mike Muscala – from overseas. With Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon both coming off the books, the Hawks could be in the market for a backup five if they don’t sign last year’s 16th overall pick Lucas Nogueira. “Bebe” has been playing overseas as Atlanta’s “draft-and-stash” project, but could potentially bring the depth the Hawks need at the five for this upcoming season. If so, drafting another center would be pointless.
- A backup point guard. Shelvin Mack will be a restricted free agent this summer, making room for the possibility that the Hawks might require the services of a backup point guard. It’s hard to imagine Mack being offered a contract so large that Atlanta wouldn’t be willing to match, but if the right prospect falls to pick number 15, Danny Ferry and co. could decide to move away from Mack. Dennis Schroeder has yet to display enough to warrant his commanding the second string, so I wouldn’t look at him as a factor quite yet.
- A backup shooting guard. Lou WIlliams is currently Atlanta’s backup off guard, but his contract expires at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season and he could find himself on the trading block as a cap-shaving asset. Thus, a safe route could be nabbing a talented two that slips down to Atlanta’s pick such as Gary Harris or Zach LaVine. While Lou brought effective ball handling to the shooting guard slot, he was an on-and-off shooting threat and a liability on defense. Looking for an upgrade in this year’s draft wouldn’t be the worst of ideas.
- A small forward. We have a winner. DeMarre Carroll was a great fit as an improving 3-and-D wing last season, but had zero help on the bench. The Hawks would either play Cartier Martin, a third guard, or MIke Scott at the three with Carroll on the pine. None of these options are particularly ideal, (forthcoming stats per NBA.com/stats) with the Hawks being outscored by 6.4 points per 100 possessions with Martin on the floor, Teague-Mack-Williams lineups getting trumped by 5.6 points per 100 possessions and Mike Scott best equipped to play the stretch four role. A backup wing that can shoot and has the potential to defend as well would be pivotal, and could even replace Carroll down the line with enough upside. Which leads me to my number one candidate: Kyle Anderson. Have a look at his measurements (from NBA.com) in comparison to Anthony Davis’s:
Frightening, right? He also shot 48.3% from downtown, has been vaunted as a good passer and was compared to Boris Diaw by Chad Ford. If Anderson isn’t available, other options include James Young and Rodney Hood.
The Hawks may have a varied number of ways to approach the upcoming NBA Draft, including trading the pick like in the situation HawksHoop’s Bo Churney posed, but there are only a mere few that make sense. It’s now up to Atlanta’s front office to decide which one will prove most successful.