Monday, May 21, 2018

Luka Doncic Rumor: Seven Thoughts about the latest ESPN news



This will look a lot like the tweets I sent out yesterday when rumors of the Kings and Hawks passing on Luka Doncic started rolling from my old friend (from DraftCity days at RealGM) Jonathan Givony of ESPN. There is a lot to review as far as the emotions one might feel with such news about a prominent prospect in an upcoming draft. As Hawks fans, especially, there can be strong feelings of fear about the draft, after all. So here are some thoughts about this rumor, with a bit more commentary than the Twitter offering yesterday. 

1. They have already been told to pass by Doncic camp. It is possible that, already, the Luke Doncic representation has reached out to teams in the lottery that are a hard pass for Doncic, thereby using the leverage of Euroleague to help shape his destination. It's smart to do this, to pick a specific place that Doncic and his folks feel are better fits for him than, say, the Kings or the Hawks. Let's say he can steer himself to the Cavs at 8 (considering LBJ, of course) or the Sixers at 10. Is not that better, on paper, than taking on the Kings or the rebuilding Hawks or even Dallas? Makes sense. So if that conversation has already happened, then it behooves the Hawks or Kings to maybe get out in front of the rejection by saying, hey, we'd rather a big than Doncic.

2. Two words: Smoke Screen One tradition of the lead up to the NBA Draft is that teams are constantly putting out misinformation for many reasons, usually to disguise the actual intent of that team so that another won't steal their guy. Mayyyybe, the Kings and Hawks are engaging in such chicanery here, who knows.

3. There are legit concerns about how some of the interior playmaking will translate to NBA. Mentioned this in the latest look at each of the prospects (see recent articles), but watching Doncic he relies on a lot of savvy ball moves to create space and to get into the lane. Will those same avenues be available in a quicker, lengthier NBA? It is enough to question, even if you cannot question his Elite vision, CourtIQ or shooting.

4. MOAR BAMBA This could also be called MOAR JJJ or MOAR Bagley, but the Hawks might feel it is more difficult to find a defining five out there than a playmaking guard. And they might be right. The difference is that all three of those guys have lower floors than Doncic, who I said in that last summary article that he has the best chance of reaching his 80th percentile career outcome.

5. Priming the pump to take potential offers.
Nothing sends a signal to teams looking to trade up than saying you might not be interested in a premium prospect others might covet. Leaking information to press is a good way to get the word out.

6. Lord please, not another Chris Paul fiasco. This is the biggest gulp the Hawks fans will deal with if the Hawks do have a chance to draft Doncic and pass to take a big. Sooooo many draft pundits had Marvin Williams high on the board with elite measurements, etc. And while there those of us who were desperate for the type of elite leadership and PG skills Chris Paul showed at Wake Forest, there were definitely others who saw the ceiling potential of Marvin and wanted to go that route. It turns out as the biggest miss in Hawks draft history since 2000 (have to qualify because the overall draft miss list is staggering). Even the disaster of the Shelden Williams guarantee, which is the actual bigger mess of a draft than this one, doesn't match the agony of passing on CP3 to take Marvin. 7. And this is the most important: It is early and we will hear way more misdirection than truth.
There are 31 days until the draft -- too get too committed to NBA gossip and rumors so soon will eave you an emotional wreck, twisted in 1000 different ways by the time Adam Silver opens the 2018 NBA Draft. Have you other thoughts about the Doncic rumor? Feel free to talk about it in the Comments Area or single me out on Twitter @JasonWalkerNBA.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018 NBA Draft: Top Six Players for the Hawks to review (revisted)




We posted a quick look a few weeks ago at the top players of this 2018 NBA Draft and now let me revisit those players, with quick comments on Pros and Cons of each of them.

It looks like a fairly flat draft from 1-6, meaning that all the guys have flaws and there is no mountaintop pick in this draft, a guy you have to have if you are #1.

All of which probably means the Hawks will get the top pick.

1. Luka Doncic, G, International

Pros: Elite court vision and CourtIQ, elite shooter and great range

Cons: Unsure about how his quickness and penetration will translate to the NBA.

I finally sat down to look at Doncic and came away understanding why people like him a lot. He has the floor vision and playmaking of a savvy vet, but he has yet to turn 20 years old. He has a solid step back jump shot from long range and hits the open man more often that a top flight quarterback.

He is the safest pick of the draft, even if he is not a superstar, he has the best chance of hitting his 80th percentile outcome.

2. DeAndre Ayton, Big, Arizona

Pros: Height, ability to finish, solid shot from outside

Cons: Does not defend the rim or play defense like you would expect from someone his height. Fades from view at times on the court.

Ayton has been a consensus #1 for a while amongst touts, but I am not convinced. Maybe he will do fine and be a solid center for a decade, but I don't see the separation of talent that necessitates taking him at the top as compared to the other members of the top six.

3. Marvin Bagley, Big, Duke

Pros: Unstoppable motor, very good in the post, solid outside shot, excellent rebounder and very efficient. Super quick off the floor.

Cons: Defense lacked (as did all of Duke last season), only uses left hand on offense could be exploited in the pros.

I love Marvin Bagley and feel he will be a solid starter in the NBA. He plays super efficiently, provides a ton of offense and I believe showed the framework, led by his strong motor, to improve defensively with better surroundings.

4. Mohamed Bamba, Big, Texas

Pros: Massive 7'9 wingspan, good instincts on the defensive end, showed a lot of disruption against top matchups as well as the creampuffs, has been a very visible worker in the offseason to get better, excellent height, explosive off the floor. Ran the floor very well with good hands (when above the waist).

Cons: Looks raw offensively at times, loses the ball in traffic, role may be out of place in contrast to the top teams in the NBA. Already the old age of 20.

The shotblocker, and big man in general, has lost his appeal in the NBA. While Clint Capela has a great season, the other three conference finalists sport shooting bigs or no big at all. I love Bamba's ability to disrupt on defense, his work ethic this offseason to add the three to his repertoire and ability to finish around the hoop, but if he can't be out there because teams go small, then he is not an anchor to build around.

5. Jaren Jackson, Jr, Big, Michigan State

Pros: Great defensive instincts, good rebounder, solid outside shooting that can fill the threes and d(efense) role on teams, youngest off the lotto bigs.

Cons: Also somewhat raw in terms of skills, foul and turnover prone.

JJJ looks real good and compares favorably to Bamba, save for the additional height and length. If you believe the NBA is moving on from those types of bigs, then JJJ is the perfect smallball big to add here instead.

6. Trae Young, G, Oklahoma

Pros: Fierce range and confidence, can score the basketball

Cons: Small and ease to move off his center when driving, volume based inefficient shooter, super high volume in college likely won't be seen in NBA, high turnover rates.

I believe that Young is going to end up being best suited for top reserve role on a team, like top 6th men Jamal Crawford and Louis Williams, who put up high usage backcourt scoring and playmaking off the bench.

Not listed, but considerable:

Michael Porter may end up being a top scorer but the back injury that cost him his only season in NCAA serves as a red flag for teams needing to invest in something more certain for the long term. Porter showed amazing athleticism in high school and reminds of Andrew Wiggins, which would be funny if he ended up with the Cavs.

Mikal Bridges might be my favorite player outside the top six. His wingspan,offensive abilities and versatility are excellent and will make an excellent consolation prize for teams sliding out of the top six.

Leave anyone you want out? Disagree with the pros/cons? Leave a note in the Comments Area or converse with me on Twitter @JasonWalkerNBA.

Monday, April 30, 2018

It is time to move on from Dennis Schröder




Dennis Schröder was given the best chance to prove he was a long term solution at point guard/floor leader for the Hawks this season, his last as a Hawk under Mike Budenholzer, and he failed. It is time for the Hawks to get the most they can for Dennis as the team goes into a new season and a new birth with a new coach.

WHY?

Dennis was given the most usage and control he had ever had and posted slightly above average advanced stats and proved he was a super capable offensive player, but super lousy defensively and was just another guy on the floor as the leader of this team, not someone who made teammates better.

He likely maxed out on his counting stats, a.k.a. market value for a large portion of teams in the NBA, so moving him now is the best time to do so in that regard. The team will have a new coach, new players and will likely get younger if Dewayne Dedmon opts to move on, as it is likely he will. This will mean even less offensive efficiency as a whole for the Hawks, and Dennis will look like he took a step back, statistically, lowering his greatest trade value right now: his stats. Schröder looks good in some statistical areas and will still bring a good return, especially considering one of his best numbers, his age. At 24, teams can (and will) still gamble that Schröder has more ceiling to reach.

Because of this, the Hawks can, potentially, get the most for Dennis now, even with off the court issues. Acquiring more picks and continuing to build the future of this team is a good thing, especially if you have concluded, as I have, that Dennis is what he is at this point: An elite driving scoring point guard that needs to have the ball in his hands to be productive, and little else positive after that. Defensively and as a leader, he has not developed nor taken the public initiative to be more than he is, even with the excellent player development of Mike Budenholzer and the staff at his back for all these years. 

It is also a good time to part ways with Dennis because of the position he plays on this team. He is a high usage player, so if you keep him on this team, it will, by role, keep the other players who have a longer term future of this team from stepping into more production because Dennis will be doing his 27-30% raw usage thing out there. If the Hawks end up taking Luka Doncic in the draft, this is a slam dunk, given the desire to get Doncic in front of this team and make it his own. Even in the absence of that, however, players like Prince, Collins and whoever the Hawks take at the top will need room to develop, and the usage that goes with that.

The Hawks did the right thing by trading Jeff Teague away to Indiana when it was clear they had reached their peak with him, even if a season too late. They needed to know if Dennis Schröder could take them further and if the young point guard could develop into a all-star level point guard and future leader of the Hawks. Now we have seen this is not the case, and it is time to move him on and acquire another player to lead this new iteration of the Hawks in the 20's.

Disagree? Agree? Let me know in the Comments Area or on the Twitter Area @JasonWalkerNBA.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 NBA Draft: Mo Bamba Fever





I have Mo Bamba Fever.

For long time readers and folks who know my basketball proclivities, this will not be a surprise. I have a well known affection for shot blockers and wingspan, so the fact that I am being drawn to a player with 7'9 wingspan and massive shot blocking instincts should not be that big of a spoiler.

Bamba, however, has shown a lot more to me than just highlight reel blocked shots, though there are many of those, more so than anyone in this lottery group, for sure. Watching his tape, he has shown a more developed offensive game than I saw Rudy Gobert carry into his draft season. He has a solid touch on his jump shot, hook shot and off the square/around the basket shots. He moves his feet very well, I believe, on both sides of the floor, making the most of his defensive presence by playing both his man on rolls to the hoop and the ball handler, incredibly disrupting those plays and ably covering for his beaten teammate.

I love players like Rudy Gobert and Giannis Antetokounmpo going into drafts (and wrote about them at that time) because they show physical differentiations that other players will never have. There is more to it than just differentiation, obviously, because they have to play basketball well, too, but once you have established that they aren't lost on the basketball court, then their physical attributes raise them above their peers.

In this draft, Bamba is the only one that fits the bill. I love Marvin Bagley's offensive skill set, Luka Doncic's versatile offensive game, Jaren Jackson Jr's defensive instincts and Deandre Ayton's athleticism and size, but Bamba's combination of game changings defensive skills, nose for the basketball around the glass and able jump shot make him my (current) favorite target for the Hawks in the lottery.

This is good for me, as a fan and ardent Bird Watcher, because this means the Hawks won't have to win the lottery to get Bamba, as Ayton and Doncic are, currently, consensus 1-2 in this draft and there are many who will always have bias against longer players like Bamba for looking more unpolished, like they did with Gobert.

The highlights above, from YouTube channel NBA Scouting Report (who is doing the best DraftExpress impression with their approach, of which I approve since Givony and Schmidt have moved to ESPN and are not producing such content), show the good and bad of Bamba (and other lotto picks, too, in other clips) and Bamba leaps off the screen to me more than any other pick.

So put me in the Bamba camp, no matter where the Hawks are picking. Even the top pick of the draft.

Disagree? Like other clips of lotto picks? Let's discuss in the Comments Area or on Twitter @JasonWalkerNBA.

Friday, April 13, 2018

NBA Draft 2018: A Quick Look at the Top Six for the Atlanta Hawks




Let's make this quick as there will be more to come as the Hawks know what pick they will have in mid-May when the Lottery occurs.

DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

At first look, the center that most call the #1 pick in this draft looks less like Joel Embiid than you would like, should the Hawks win the lottery. He has an okay college 3-point shot, does not look terribly long as a defensive disruptor and his skills look a little raw on both ends. He is a legit 7-footer, so that's something, but would love to see a more polished player with more projection in this spot.

Luka Doncic, Guard, Real Madrid

He is interesting, though this is someone I want to watch more as the draft season wears on through the spring. By some accounts, he is part Toni Kukoc, but with more a point guard player mentality, rather than Toni, who was a very capable passer, but not an offensive initiator in his time in the NBA. Doncic could fill the playmaker spot that we see Ricky Rubio filling into in Utah, but with a much taller frame to boot.

Jaren Jackson, Jr., PF, Michigan State

Defensively, he is exciting, and may project best into the recent Threes and D mold more than anyone else in this grouping. However, I am not convinced of his offense, which looks less than fluid and his body size is scrawny. I do love a shot-blocker, however, and JJJ definitely fits the mold, averaging a higher block rate than Ayton, easily.

Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke

The most polished offense player I have seen is Bagley, who is very long, can play either back to the basket or facing and is super aggressive on the offensive end. He is a scorer and a good one, even finishing above the rim consistently and authoritatively. His defensive side is almost a zero, but he has the size and length to be a factor if coached. He reminds almost immediately of Julius Randle, but taller and with more above the rim capabilities.

Michael Porter, SF, Missouri

We were robbed of seeing Porter, who came from high school as maybe the most electric scorer in the country, since his back injury cost him nearly the entire season. When he returned, he was not physically the same, which is obviously concerning. Did he lose even one level of his physicality? Will the back injury project as chronic (if you can do such a thing)? We will see if he allows teams to check the back during the draft process and it will be a major red flag if he will not. If his back is fine, he is a creative and skilled scorer, maybe like Blake Griffin coming from Oklahoma. But that is a big if.

Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

Bamba looks great to me as a defensive center in the mold of Rudy Gobert. He is risky because, while Gobert has become a playoff caliber force, there is no guarantee Bamba will develop the same way. Still, how he might fit into a Mike Budenholzer coached team could be a factor here.

What do you think the Hawks ought to do at the top? Is there someone else you would consider up here? Let me know in the Comments area or hit me up @JasonWalkerNBA on the Twitter machine.