Atlanta Hawks: Lawal gets close look from Hawks

Lawal wants the Hawks. They might want him, too. (Johnny Crawford/jcrawford@ajc.com)

Lawal wants the Hawks. They might want him, too. (Johnny Crawford/jcrawford@ajc.com)

Gani Lawal, out of Norcross High School and Georgia Tech, hopes the Hawks draft him next week. It could happen, too: Word is he’s one of five players the Hawks are considering selecting with the No. 24 overall pick.

Lawal was at Philips Arena today to work out. He said it was his 13th stop on the predraft workout circuit and he’s still not done. Lawal put his name on the early-entry list in 2009 but decided to return to Tech for his junior season.

“I needed to go back to school,” he said. “I don’t think it was a bad decision to go back. I felt confident, and I feel like it helped me. It may not jump out on the stat sheet. [But] my understanding of the game increased and improved and I’m glad I went back.”

When he got back his 2009 draft evaluation, in what areas did NBA personnel types tell him he needed to improve?

“Passing out of the post, playing through double teams, my anticipation on defense, my free throws, ballhandling, shooting,” he said.

Lawal looked smaller than I expected. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time around NBA dudes but, well, that’s what he’s trying to be, right? Draftexpress.com says Lawal’s wingspan measures 7 feet but when I saw him I didn’t immediately think, “There goes an NBA power forward.”

I’m not going to pretend I watched him play a whole lot this past season (I’m more of a Big East guy), so better to trust those who did. NBADraft.net says Lawal is a “strong, athletic and lengthy 6′9 forward (in shoes) . . .who has been able to use his physical tools to gain the advantage over whoever guards him” but notes “his faceup game and [outside] jumper will both need to improve if he wants to play real consistent minutes at the next level, as he won’t be able to use his body in the pro’s the same way he uses it in college.”

Lawal is among those prospects who left school early despite no guarantee they’d be selected in the first round and get a guaranteed deal. It seems there’s a new breed of guys who decide to get on the workout circuit and show what they can do.

“At this point you’ve got to have confidence in yourself,” Lawal said. “If you don’t, nobody else will. What somebody puts on a piece of paper two months from the draft my change drastically once the draft gets around.”

– The Hawks have said they’d like to get a wing with shooting ability or a center out of the draft, but L.D. said today: “Realistically, at that area [No.24] in the draft, you are looking at the best available player.” Already, it seems like player-development will be a focus for Atlanta going forward, so don’t be surprised if the Hawks draft a player at a position where they seem set and then bring that prospect along for the future.

Jordan Crawford was supposed to work out for the Hawks on Wednesday but canceled for unknown reasons. I think the Hawks were disappointed not to get another close look at Crawford, who seems to fit their desire for a catch-and-shoot type wing player. Crawford blossomed into a productive player at Xavier after a lost season at Indiana.

– The prospects who’ve come through so far say the Hawks have been less focused on physical contact in the workout sessions and more concerned with seeing their skills.

MC

243 comments Add your comment

John Brown

June 17th, 2010
2:06 pm

Wow. I won’t even say it. ; )

John Brown

June 17th, 2010
2:08 pm

Kid sounds like a little undersized. I’d rather take a chance on a longer shot European, but hey, what do I know.

dap01

June 17th, 2010
2:10 pm

Thank MC. Who are the other players that the Hawks are focued on?

Sautee

June 17th, 2010
2:13 pm

I have a friend with Tech Season tickets, and I’ve watched Lawal for more than a few games. He still looks raw to me, even this year.

Good, maybe great athletic skills, average basketball player.

I’d pass on him for someone who can contribute immediately.

moboman

June 17th, 2010
2:14 pm

Lawal is a perfect Clippers pick. Hawks should look elsewhere. Bad hands, poor decision maker.

T.J.

June 17th, 2010
2:24 pm

We should seriously give Lance Stephenson a shot. I think he be good if JJ leaves or even off the bench he could develop into a threat. Not to mention he’s got loads potential.

Henry

June 17th, 2010
2:28 pm

Gee that pretty much why fans do follow the hawks. They clearly need a center to the team scouts a power forward. This club will be lottery in 3 years

hmmmmmmmm.

June 17th, 2010
2:29 pm

Enter your comments here

hmmmmmmmm.

June 17th, 2010
2:30 pm

PASS!!!!!!!!!! Nothing there to help us.

Mystikal

June 17th, 2010
2:33 pm

MC, from your eyes and ears, if someone hawks like falls out of lottery or 16 to 20 range any chance they try to move up?

dap01

June 17th, 2010
2:34 pm

A Power Forward who is projected to be a role player should not be drafted. Power forward is the position of least need on the Hawks’ roster.

O'Brien

June 17th, 2010
2:35 pm

Sautee,

As a Tech fan, I watched a few games on TV. and if lawal is one of 5 players the hawks are looking at, I hope he is 4th or 5th on the list.

Speaking of wings who can shoot, i hope Marvin improves his shooting next season. He has good form, so I think its all in his head.

Astro Joe

June 17th, 2010
2:36 pm

@MC, the Hawks have all of 3 bigs signed next season (Horford, Smith and Zaza). Bigs cost more than wings in free agency (as a general rule). It doesn’t make a lot of sense to ask a coach with only a 2 year guarantee to develop an NBDL type (as Pendergraph suggested) or a raw prospect. Nor does it make sense to expect the ASG to spend in free agency (last time we paid more than $3M for a free agent was in 2006). Seemingly, the most logical selection would be a big upperclassman who can contribute immediately and has demonstrated good production while in school. Brackins, James, Booker and Jerome Jordan are a few names who immediately come to mind. Just get Coach Drew someone who is likely ready from the beginning of camp as opposed to bringing in Stromile Swift or the NBDL version of the same. Let’s set Drew up for success as opposed to filling his roster with undrafted projects or still-wet-behind-their-ears-prospects.

GT Alum

June 17th, 2010
2:36 pm

Sautee, that’s kind of the point. Everyone’s saying it’s not likely there will be someone who can make a big immediate impact available at that spot.

O'Brien

June 17th, 2010
2:38 pm

For a center, I would take a flyer on Dexter Pittman from Texas. He has legit size, although conditioning and fouls are an issue.

But from what I have read, he is a better player than Siler.

Kenbud

June 17th, 2010
2:40 pm

Dude … can’t tell us there are 5 players the Hawks are looking at and then only tell us one (Lawal). LOL … it’s like we’re being teased. :-)

And ix-nay on Lance Stephenson. Talent, yes. Sanity, no.

O'Brien

June 17th, 2010
2:40 pm

Just to be clear, I meant taking Pittman in the SECOND round

GT Alum

June 17th, 2010
2:41 pm

As much as Lawal contributed for Tech, he looks to be another Josh Smith/Josh Childress/Marvin Williams-style player, but not as freakishly athletic as Smith and not as good a shooter as Childress. I just don’t see Lawal filling a need or getting much playing time here. The Hawks honestly will probably be doing him and themselves a disservice if they draft him.

Sautee

June 17th, 2010
2:45 pm

GT Alum,

If we’re drafting a project, I want more upside than I’ve seen from Lawal.

Sorry, but not all Yellow Jackets will become Chris Bosh.

Michael Cunningham

June 17th, 2010
2:47 pm

@dap01: “Who are the other players that the Hawks are focued on?” not quite sure, hope to figure it out soon.

GT Alum

June 17th, 2010
2:49 pm

I wasn’t saying that as an endorsement of Lawal. If you read the next post I made, I did anything but endorse the Hawks drafting Lawal. I agree completely on wanting someone with more upside. I was just trying to temper the expectations of folks who are expecting to get some immediate help in the draft.

Michael Cunningham

June 17th, 2010
2:49 pm

@Mystikal: “MC, from your eyes and ears, if someone hawks like falls out of lottery or 16 to 20 range any chance they try to move up?”

always possible, i guess, but it seems like the Hawks don’t like this group very much outside of the guys everyone likes. also, they aren’t really expecting a rotation player out of this draft so i don’t see them trading one to move up.

Big Ray

June 17th, 2010
2:51 pm

You don’t get a center with the 24th pick. You might be able to get a center project , but that’s about it. Otherwise, there are wings and dirty work forwards. All the guys you could remotely call a center, that are worth bothering with, are likely gone by picks 15-20, much less #24.

Michael Cunningham

June 17th, 2010
2:52 pm

@ Astro Joe: “Seemingly, the most logical selection would be a big upperclassman who can contribute immediately and has demonstrated good production while in school. Brackins, James, Booker and Jerome Jordan are a few names who immediately come to mind. Just get Coach Drew someone who is likely ready from the beginning of camp as opposed to bringing in Stromile Swift or the NBDL version of the same. Let’s set Drew up for success as opposed to filling his roster with undrafted projects or still-wet-behind-their-ears-prospects.”

i’m sure the Hawks would prefer your plan but, as Pendergraft said, they don’t think any of those kind of guys will be there at No. 24. we shall see.

i_am_soulstar

June 17th, 2010
2:52 pm

You need physical contact in these workouts. Some guys are a lot less effective when physicality is involved (see Marvin Williams) and this certainly needs to be known.

Michael Cunningham

June 17th, 2010
2:53 pm

@Kenbud: haha . . . don’t mean to tease, but that’s all the info i have right now.

Jesse

June 17th, 2010
2:54 pm

We need a pure shooter. Draft a guy who can come in and knock down 3s. Like a Korver type. That’s what this team is missing. A pure shooter.

GT Alum

June 17th, 2010
2:55 pm

So, Big Ray, do you see Gawal being a dirty work forward? I even think he’d need work in that regard. I just don’t see him getting a lot of PT here over the next couple of years.

Ken Strickland

June 17th, 2010
2:55 pm

If we’re seriously looking for a wing player or center in the draft, it means Sund has an idea about what JJ will do, or who he can get to replace him in FA. Rather than drafting a PF, why not take the safer route and resign and develop former Hawk OHunter, who’s just as athletic, and is more advanced experience wise.

You can forget a potential sign and trade with JJ for Philly center SDelembert, who’s just been traded to the Kings for center SHawes and SF ANocioni.

Navigator

June 17th, 2010
2:57 pm

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!!!????? The Hawks don’t need another forward. A lack of center is the reason Orlando beat them like a drum. If they have to trade their #1 draft pick to get a defensive center, do it, but do not draft another forward.

Astro Joe

June 17th, 2010
2:58 pm

Fine, I wil have to dust off my Shelden Williams, Othella Hunter and Salim Stoudemire jerseys… since the ASG will likely offer those guys minimum deals and expect Drew to perform the miracles on those guys that Woody failed to complete. Maybe Drew can lay hands on Speedy and get him to be a valuable 3rd PG.

JoJo the Godfather

June 17th, 2010
3:02 pm

Any draft picks in that Phi/Sac deal? Sac just cleared a lot of salary (Nocioni has 2yrs $13.5M & Hawes is restricted next year) and got a decent player in doing so.

klerthinker

June 17th, 2010
3:03 pm

Draft an athletic full sized center.Turn him over to Al Horfred, who can train him and help form the right attitude required to be successful. Also get Josh Childress back on the roster.

GStateBen

June 17th, 2010
3:04 pm

Lance Stephenson will likely be available in the 2nd round so that’s decent. I’ve been banging the drum for weeks, it has to be Solomon Alabi @ 24 if he lasts that long. We need an athletic center who can pass and block shots. His offensive game is good enough and he’s an above average FT shooter.

Hawks can’t have major interest in Gani because he is shorter and less physical then any of the current forwards on the current roster.

GT Alum

June 17th, 2010
3:04 pm

Navigator, it’ll take more than just the 24th pick to get a defensive center. We’d likely have to trade Josh, Joe, Al or Jamal to get a player like that. Maybe next offseason we could get something of value for Bibby, since his contract will be expiring after next year, but, here and now, at least one of those four would have to be part of any deal that would see a good center coming our way.

Ken Strickland

June 17th, 2010
3:05 pm

ASTRO JOE-Woody didn’t fail to complete the development of those players, he made absolutely no attempt to even start their development.

bigdave

June 17th, 2010
3:13 pm

i happen to like Lawal @ 24..

i like the work he does on the glass, particularly offensive. right now, he is a better finisher than ZaZa and could thrive from dribble penetrating guards looking to dish. his on ball defense is better than Za Za right now. that Ga Tech program breeds solid defenders. i feel he could come in and contribute off the bench. he has some dog in his game. he displayed a nice touch around the basket, with a turnaround/fall-away jumper with his back to the basket over either shoulder. it was clear that he worked on his game after his So. year. that alone speaks for his work ethic. if he develops a mentality to be a tenacious rebounder and scrapper he can develop into a solid big.

cp

June 17th, 2010
3:20 pm

Ehh I’m not a big fan of Lawal. There will be some players at 24 who can help its just up to this scouting department to get it right. It always seems as if the guys chosen after the Hawks picks end up as better players. Talent will be there at 24 we just better hope the guys did their homework on these players. I wonder who we will have on our summer league team. I know some people don’t like the kid but I think Gerald Green would be a nice fit. He has enough size to play the 2 and 3. He can hit the 3, knocks down his free throws, and we all know he is a finisher. He is still young and will be cheap. I think he would fit great in our up tempo offense. Certainly wont hurt giving him a chance. I mean seriously Mario West was on this team for a few years and all he brought was energy no skills what so ever….. Guys you can watch the interviews of the prospects on Hawks.com…… I think they had them doing some 1 on 1 work and some 3 on 3 work. Better than sitting in a empty gym playing against a chair. At least with some 1 on 1 stuff you can see if a guy will be able to defend or will be able to create his own shot.

silent choirboy

June 17th, 2010
3:22 pm

Bummed to hear that Crawford news. He’s the kind of guy I’d like to see us take a chance on, although I guess he could be Jamal Crawford-lite. But still, some scoring from that 3 position would be nice.

JEWELL ROLLEN

June 17th, 2010
3:22 pm

MOBOMAN…I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU….BASKETBALL IQ IS ALMOST NON EXISTENT! NEEDS TO STILL WORK ON EVERYTHING! THERE AT LEAST 15 OTHER GUYS IN THE DRAFT WHO ARE MUCH, MUCH BETTER.

MsDee

June 17th, 2010
3:23 pm

MC,

Why not bring Siler since he is a step higher than anybody we could get @24 and draft a PG/SG instead to back-up Teague/Bibby, since Bibby would be used more as a spot-up shooter than as a PG.

Tim Tebow's Tears

June 17th, 2010
3:23 pm

As a Tech fan my response is a clearcut NOOOOOOOO

JoJo the Godfather

June 17th, 2010
3:29 pm

MsDee, I’m with you. Greivis Vasquez or Dominique Jones at PG/SG, and bring in Siler and 2nd round pick Dexter Pittman for some size.

NOTSO FAST

June 17th, 2010
3:32 pm

WE NEED A CENTER. WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT WING SPAN THEY ARE JUST SAYING THAT HE IS NOT TALL ENOUGH TO PLAY BIG TIME CENTER.

O'Brien

June 17th, 2010
3:35 pm

GStateBen,

If I’m not mistaken, Solomon abai averaged 6 rebounds per game last year. It bothers me that a center with his size and ability averaged only 6 RPG.

MsDee,

You should check out Dexter Pittman from university of Texas. Just as big as siler, but player against better competition (siler player at Augusta state I think).

MC,

If the hawks don’t think those players will be there, I wonder what the hawks (mock) draft board looks like.

BigGTMike

June 17th, 2010
3:36 pm

Can’t dribble, can’t shoot. Not NBA talent.

All I'm Saying Is...

June 17th, 2010
3:39 pm

Hawks would be better off trading the pick and taking a risk on someones first rounder from last year that they’ve soured on….can you say Thabeet….

REALLY??

June 17th, 2010
3:41 pm

Not another Power forward bust for the hawks! What a joke the Hawks team and owners are……

Astro Joe

June 17th, 2010
3:43 pm

OB, their draft board probably reads like an NBDL All Star roster, because they seem to think that Othella Hunter is every bit as good as Trevor Booker.

Strickland, and those guys sure showed themselves well after breaking free of the noose, didn’t they?

Dukester9

June 17th, 2010
3:43 pm

Sign and trade Joe Johnson along with Marvin to the philly for Andre Igoudala and Sam Dalembert