NBA Draft preview: Potential first-round picks for Hawks
MAY 26, 2014 3:57p ET
With the NBA Draft set for one month from today, the Hawks are getting closer to making decisions for their 2014-15 campaign. General manager Danny Ferry has said that with the 15th overall pick he thinks he can find a good NBA player and he has shown that he can do that with lower picks, so it will be interesting to see the direction he chooses.
Entering his third draft, Ferry has picked up guard John Jenkins, forward Mike Scott, guard Dennis Schroder, center Lucas Nogueira and center Mike Muscala on draft day.
Thus far, Scott, a second-round pick in 2012, has proved the most NBA-ready and the best of the lot. The jury remains out on Jenkins, a shooting guard whose 2013-14 season was cut short by back injuries.
Schroder, one of two first-round picks last season, showed promising signs, particularly with his quickness, in limited playing time as a rookie. The German guard was the fourth-youngest player in the NBA last season and has much room to grow as a potential point guard of the future. Nogueira, a Brazilian center, was limited by knee injuries last season in Spain and it remains unknown as to whether the Hawks will choose to allow him to keep developing overseas or bring him to Atlanta. A late-season arrival, Muscala also needs work but showed at times that he could bring depth scoring off the bench.
It is difficult to gauge which need (or needs) Ferry will choose to fill in June via the draft, as he has been cagey on that topic thus far and will likely continue to be so. Among his top priorities are players with character -- coachable, self-motivators -- who have competitive streaks. Beyond that, he is somewhat difficult to predict because of his affinity for the international game.
Last season, he signed little-known Macedonian center Pero Antic and Antic grew into a role as a starter with Al Horford injured. Mexican center Gustavo Ayon represents another international player the Hawks signed last year and who made contributions before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
So Ferry could choose to go the international route again with a lesser-known player. Here are some players that mock drafts indicate could fall to the Hawks. Most of them are college players, but there is one international:
James Young, Kentucky
A number of mock drafts indicate that the Hawks could select the 6-foot-6, 215-pound guard/forward. If the Hawks do go this route, it's bad news for Jenkins and perhaps a sign that, at worst, the Hawks have given up on him and, at best, he's further down the depth chart -- behind Kyle Korver and, perhaps, Young.
Young finished second in Kentucky freshman history by making 82 3-pointers this past season. He shot 34.9 percent, which is good but not great and could use improvement in the NBA. Clearly, the Hawks like 3-point shooters, who give them the ability to spread the floor. The question is whether they already feel strong enough at this position and with this particular skill. Of course, Korver is 33 and the Hawks eventually will have to replace him. If they feel Jenkins is not up to the task physically, Young could become a serious possibility.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
One can never have too many players from Creighton on his NBA team. The Hawks already have Korver and in 2012-13 they also had Anthony Tolliver. Again, McDermott fits the Hawks' mold: he is a great shooter who, as the son of a coach, is coachable and highly competitive. With 3,150 career points, he ranks fifth all-time in NCAA history. The fact that he shot 44.9 percent on 3-pointers makes him a much better shooter than Young and would indicate he could be highly proficient in the NBA. At 6-foot-8, he is taller than Young but Young could be the better perimeter defender, an area in which the Hawks need to improve. Would represent an intriguing pick.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
The 6-foot-10, 245-pound Payne would help to bolster the Hawks' size and makes sense for that reason. Scott proved an effective player last season, but he is three inches shorter than Payne, who could play more of a traditional power forward but who also can step outside. (Scott is something of a tweener and has developed a good stroke from behind the 3-point arc.)
Payne is Michigan State's career leader in blocks, which also could help the Hawks' defense. In the playoffs, Antic's defense was key to their effort but he hurt the Hawks' offensively. If Payne could help them both offensively and defensively, spelling Paul Millsap or Horford to start out, he could represent an upgrade. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds as a senior. He significantly improved his 3-point shooting as a senior, going from 38.1 percent on 42 attempts as a junior (up from two as a sophomore and none as a freshman) to 42.3 percent on 104 attempts as a senior.
The problem: he probably won't last until pick No. 15. On the upside, if the Hawks want to move up to select him, they might not have to move up far.
Gary Harris, Michigan State
Harris averaged 16.7 points, 2.7 assists and four rebounds last season, his second with the Spartans. His 3-point shooting percentage dropped from 41.1 as a freshman (on 158 tries) to 35.2 as a sophomore (on 230 tries), which indicates a pretty good aptitude -- as long as he's getting good shots, which he most likely would in Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer's system. Again, the down side is that at 6-foot-4, the Hawks essentially would be drafting a carbon copy of Jenkins. Not sure they want to go that route.
Dario Saric, Cibona Zagreb (Croatia)
Consider the 6-foot-10 forward a dark horse, especially knowing how intensely Ferry scouts the European game. Look at San Antonio, from which Ferry came, with its international cast (France, Argentina, Australia, Italy, Brazil, etc.). Because American draft analysts know little about Saric, mock drafts vary widely on where he could go -- anywhere from ninth to 20th. The 20-year-old averaged 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in leading his club to its league championship. He is said to be skilled and adept at handling the ball, which would appear to be a great fit for the Hawks' system. His negatives are said to be his athleticism. As enticing as he might be to pick, the Hawks are going to have to improve their defense at some point.