Before you can begin to examine the players the Hawks will consider drafting with the No. 24 pick on Thursday, you first must understand the competing philosophies at play.
As they wind down their draft preparations, GM Rick Sund, assistant GM Dave Pendergraft, Hawks scouts and L.D. must decide if they want to draft a player with a skill (or skills) that can help the team now but with limited upside, or take a prospect who likely won’t see minutes early but could develop later into a good NBA player. The Hawks are compiling a list of players in each pool.
“First, we have to decide which way to go,” Pendergraft said. He declined to name names but he and others provided enough clues for me to make some educated guesses. I fully expect to be hated on when the Hawks inevitably don’t draft any of these guys.
Once the Hawks determine their strategy, they then have to figure out which prospects are likely to be there when they pick. Considering the league office had a tough time completing its list of 15 players to invite to the “green room” in New York, you know how much guesswork goes into the Hawks figuring out which players will be there at No. 24.
“Do we figure out who is drafting who?” Pendergraft said. “Or do we try to continue to evaluate the players on tape and do background info on them? You want to know exactly who is taking who, but you are not going to get it [down] to the team anyway.” He said the Hawks have done “a bit of both” as draft day approaches.
Pendergraft was optimistic about the depth of the draft during the college season but grew pessimistic early in the postseason draft process. With the draft a couple days away, he’s somewhere in between.
“I think we will be glad to get a guy we are happy to have,” he said.
A look at the players that could be available at No. 24 that the Hawks might consider, from among the “could help them now” pool. I’ll have stuff on the long-term potential guys in a later blog post.
NBA skill now
Gani Lawal, F, 6-9, Georgia Tech
“One thing I think always translates from the college game to NBA is rebounding,” Pendergraft said, and that explains Atlanta’s interest in Lawal despite his projection to play power forward, where the Hawks have Smoove, Al and Zaza as options.
Lawal ranked 25th in the NCAA in pace-adjusted rebounds, according to Draftexpress.com. Lawal ranks seventh in that stat among sure-fire and possible first rounders, behind DeMarcus Cousins, Cole Aldrich, Larry Sanders, Hassan Whiteside, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Jarvis Varnado.
Trevor Booker, F, 6-7, Clemson
“Booker is a heck of a rebounder,” Pendergraft said. “Both of them [Booker and Lawal] have the physical presence. They are not going to get crushed.” Booker projects as a power forward and is undersized for the position, but according to NBADraft.net he “shows the ability to step out on the perimeter and knock down the jumper, even showing three point range at times” and “can also use his handle and quickness to blow by bigger defenders.”
So perhaps Booker could provide the Hawks more than just rebounding.
Jordan Crawford, G, 6-4, Xavier
Crawford canceled his workout with the Hawks and Pendergraft isn’t confident he will still be available at No. 24. DraftExpress.com has has Crawford going 27th to the Nets, so it’s possible Atlanta will have a shot at him. If he’s there and the Hawks want a scorer, Crawford might be the guy.
“He’s like a miniature version of Jamal [Crawford],” Pendergraft said.
Says DraftExpress: “[H]e is efficient in virtually every situation, and shouldered a heavy load for Xavier, but his inability to get to the foul line prevents him from standing out as much as he probably could. The second most efficient player in our rankings overall (1.014 PPP), Crawford gets fouled on his 5.1% of his shots (3rd last). A highly ranked catch and shoot player with or without a hand in his face, Crawford’s inability to draw fouls renders him as a below average finisher at .993 PPP.”
Dominique Jones, 6-4, G, South Florida
Pendergraft said Jones gets his points less by shooting well and more by getting to the basket. “He will find a way to score,” is how Pendergraft put it. “He’s such a great ballhandler. He’s so strong. He can get in the paint, and anytime you can get a guy in the paint [on] the dribble-drive, something good happens.”
Terrico White, 6-3, G, Ole Miss
Whits is a scorer like Jones but a better shooter. “Terrico White eventually is going to be a good enough shooter that the coach is going to run plays to get him open,” Pendergraft said. DraftExpress knocks White’s aggressiveness: “For a player with such excellent physical tools, you would have liked to see him get to the rim or draw more fouls than he was able to at Ole Miss.”