2016 NBA draft primer: Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks were unable to repeat their Eastern Conference finals run of 2015 after being ousted in the second round by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers, but after two high-quality seasons under Mike Budenholzer the future is a bit hazy in Atlanta. Facing major free agency question marks, at least one significant trade decision and an aging core in need of young, quality rotation players, the 2016 draft is the first step for the Hawks' front office.
The team holds the No. 21 overall pick, and while stars rarely fall in that range, sleepers are typically there for the taking.
(UPDATE: The Hawks traded starting point guard Jeff Teague for the No. 12 overall pick on Monday, giving them two first-round picks and more cap space. If Atlanta holds onto both picks, which seems unlikely at this point, it puts them in contention for prospects in a tier above the ones listed here.)
The Hawks' draft needs do not necessarily hinge on the free agency decisions of Al Horford and Kent Bazemore, but their intentions in those matters will likely inform their direction. The easiest answer for the Hawks will be best player available since room can be made in the rotation regardless — the league's positional flexibility bolsters this argument — but with Bazemore's free agency and Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha in their 30s, wing help is near the top of the list.
MOCK DRAFT TRACKER
Draft Express: Ivica Zubac, Croatia
A 7-foot-1 center competing in the Serbian League, the 19-year-old offers size and potential rim protection and rebounding for any NBA frontcourt. Zubac averaged 9.4 points per game and posted a 22.1 PER with an effective set of offensive skills this season.
CBS Sports: Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
Another center with a terrifying wingspan, Jones did not post big-time numbers in his junior season in the Southeastern Conference (13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds) but some NBA franchise is going to buy in on his physical tools.
NBA.com: Taurean Prince, Baylor
Cut in the 3-and-D mold that is en vouge for the league's wings, the 6-foot-7 Prince could develop into Atlanta's next DeMarre Carroll. Atlanta's front office also values experience, which Prince brings plenty of as a senior out of the Big 12.
PAST 3 DRAFTS
2015: Traded for Tim Hardaway Jr. and two draft-and-stash international products
2014: Drafted Adreian Payne and Edy Tavares
2013: Drafted Dennis Schroder and traded for Jared Cunningham, Lucas Nogueira and Mike Muscala