Wednesday, June 13, 2018

NBA Draft: Trae Young, Mo Bamba, Luka Doncic and the THHB Top Players Ranking

We are eight days, as of this writing, from one of the more exciting NBA Drafts for Atlanta Hawks fans in a decade. We have looked at this draft over the last month, discussed rumors, talked into the can on many platforms about who the candidates for selection with the #3 pick are and who THHB likes as its main man there.

So, what's new around this pick since the last time we published thoughts on the matter?

1. Trae Young Mania
2. The Cascading Slide of Luka Doncic
3. Michael Porter's Back!
4. Mo Bamba's agent in the lead for Agent of the Year
5. Mock Drafts

Let's look at each of these individually:

1. Trae Young Mania

To some, the obvious interest in Young excites the senses. To others, it's horror. The truth, even to this collection of THHB staffers, is in the in between.

Yes, the official statement from our vault holds true to this second, that we believe that Young's total absence of defensive instincts means he will have to be relegated to a juicy 6th man type role that will help assuage those defensive agonies. A 25-30 minute, Jamal Crawford/Lou Williams role (with much more playmaking, we add) in order to accentuate his offensive impact while curtailing the pain of covering for him defensively seems like a solid place to project with his to-this-minute body of work.

It should be said that one of the all-time favorites of THHB is Crawford, whose offensive amazement captured our hearts as much as our heralded shot-blockers have. There is room for excitement with Young, who can shoot the basketball and has a playmaker's eye on the floor. It is easy to see why fans of the Hawks are swept up in enthusiasm over those skills.

Also in Young's corner are his opponents, who consistently said that he was one of, if not THE hardest to defend this past season. His shot range alone makes defense complicated, and the lanes he creates with that range opens things up well for his teammates. Match that with his ability to pass and all a good coach has to do is teach restraint and you can raise his A/TO ratio dramatically.

But the defense, his size, and whether you can really spend that kind of draft capital on that type of player are perfectly good reasons for concern. Ultimately, the Hawks need someone that will project to be a staple of the team for their first 9-10 seasons. It is reasonable to wonder if Young is that type of player.

He is one of only four players with 1 on zero workouts that the Hawks are entertaining publicly. So Young, along with Jaren Jackson, Jr, Mo Bamba and Marvin Bagley, are the frontrunners for this pick.

2. The Cascading Slide of Luka Doncic

We have documented the many possible explanations for the potential sliding of the uber-decorated and accomplished teenager from overseas. I believe that it still holds true today and that the Kings are still the likely home for Doncic.

Why all the smokescreening then? Are they afraid to tip the scales on the Suns and they will take him? That does not seem likely, given the fanfare and practical coronation the Suns gave DeAndre Ayton when he worked out for the Suns (Doncic will not work out for any team).

Placing another front court player in Sacramento, after spending draft capital on Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere does not make a whole lot of sense. Placing Doncic in a playmaking off-guard role with DeAaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic does, however, make plenty of sense. Doncic would also make those front court investments better and provide even more range outside for a team that played Vince Carter a lot more than I expected throughout the season.

However if Doncic does get past the Kings he could end up in Memphis or Dallas, as the Hawks seem like they have gotten the "Do Not Draft" note from the Doncic side. He does have the option of continuing to play overseas, which could make such a note a higher risk than Michael Porter's back.

Speaking of which....

3. Michael Porter's Back!

Porter, coming into the season, was the most likely to succeed candidate of the draft candidates. He had the explosive arsenal of scoring, flashing high above the rim, and conjured images of the scoring prowess of Carmelo Anthony and the high flying frame of Blake Griffin.

And then he missed an entire season with a massive back injury. The words "back injury" alone is scary, as is missing an entire season. But, over the last 30 days, Porter's name has started to inch back up the draft. Whereas he was a reasonable risk, given the upside, as a pick at seven with the Bulls or eight with Cleveland, now you hear him associated with Dallas at five and even Sacramento with the second pick.

This probably means that the medical reports on his back are real sound, sound enough to begin to leak publicly. Now the word that Porter's crew will make a report available for teams 1-10 in the draft makes that almost a certainty. He can limit the full reports to teams he might prefer, such as Chicago, but the sense that his back is healthy, for now, might entice any team up the line to make him a pick.

As for us, back injuries are almost a full pass -- you will not know if they are chronic until the next injury, if there is one. Porter's value comes chiefly through his extraordinary athleticism and if that is sapped in any percentage, it drastically lowers his value. He could be an amazing gamebreaker or he could end up a volume shooter that provides little else for that draft value. With all of that, the Hawks are probably wise in not making Porter a part of their 1 on zero workouts.

UPDATE (6/14): What a difference less than a day makes! Porter has reportedly cancelled, and then reported to be "rescheduling" his next group workout for teams, but is reported to have a problem with his hip. Oh boy. It could be crafty positioning on the part of Porter's team to make sure he gets where he wants, but man, the Hawks cannot take a chance on this guy if he is already dealing with more injuries after a series of 1 on zero workouts.

4. Mo Bamba's agent in the lead for Agent of the Year

If you have watched any NBA Draft prep at all, you can't miss the onslaught of Mo Bamba offseason workout, interviews and the like. The hype around Bamba is high, and he even got a workout with the top pick Suns, so kudos to his representation for making sure everybody saw and heard Mo Bamba over the last month.

And why not? Bamba is, by almost all accounts, an engaging speaker with advanced knowledge of NBA metrics and detail. Honestly, he looks like a reporter's dream, able to break down nuances of the game and candid. But that does not make him worthy of the third pick, only underlines why it has been wise to get him in front of the camera a lot.

His wingspan, at 7'10 if you have not heard (impossible), makes him a measurement freak. According to the Suns, his vertical jump was 12'5, which is silly. His standing reach is 9'8, which when married to his great ability to maintain verticality makes him very formidable to shoot over.

We love Bamba's defensive instincts and footwork and he will absolutely change the geometry of teams playing against him. Mike Schmitz of ESPN agrees with that, highlighting it in the video breakdown of Bamba's game. He can be a gamechanger on that end, and spark plenty of transition opportunities for Dennis, Taurean Prince and John Collins if Bamba were to become a Hawk.

The downsides, which are also called out in that ESPN breakdown, are also there. He is skinny, which bigger inside players will surely lay a shoulder into or use their posteriors to move Bamba out of position, both defensively and on the glass. He did not always show high motor, either, which will be a quick passage to the bench for any coach, but especially, one would assume, with a defensive minded coach like Lloyd Pierce. He is super raw offensively - very prone to turnover in traffic, especially if the ball comes down below the shoulders. He did not shoot long range efficiently, either, though his well publicized offseason shooting retooling with Drew Hanlen has produced excellent one-on-zero film, but that is far from game action corner threes Bamba would need to hit to find his ceiling in the league.

Bamba's status has risen due to all the work he has put in and the publicity surrounding him, but even given the massive ways to get excited about Mo Bamba, there are, like all those in this lottery, reasonable concerns as well.

5. Mock Drafts

The Mock Drafts seem to have settled on Jaren Jackson, Jr. as the Hawks selection at #3. The words "modern NBA center" are assigned to Jackson and he has his own impressive measurements to go along with his candidacy for the #3 pick. Making things more difficult about evaluating 3J is that playing for Tom Izzo will not necessarily give NBA teams the film needed to easily translate ceiling, often being restricted by style and minutes.

Jackson reminds a lot of Marvin Williams, pre injury. That may scare a lot of folks, but Jackson is bigger and is more centery, but the overall play of Jackson certainly makes that comparison sound. Jackson is more refined in shooting, though his style reminds too many THHB folks of Josh Childress, and is a more all around better player than Mo Bamba right now. Toss in that Jackson is a year and a half younger and you might believe that JJJ has a higher ceiling than the Texas Freshman.

The second most linked to the Hawks is Marvin Bagley, who has the most refined offensive game of any of the bigs in the lottery. Bagley is heavy lefthanded, which he will need to diversify to be successful in the NBA, but also has an elite second jump, which helps him win rebounding battles. His measurements are fairly average for his height, which is why he demurred at the Draft Combine last month, but that has not stopped him from being the most efficient players last season, offensively.

Defensively, the Duke Blue Devils were a disaster last season and Bagley certainly contributed to that reputation. Defense if definitely more than rebounding, so while Bagley was excellent on the glass, the rest of the defense was lacking. Was that more a team problem and Bagley can be a reasonable defender under Pierce's tutelage? If the Hawks select him, as some have said they are leaning towards, then we will have our answer.

THHB's Top Players Rankings

I am assuming that the first pick will be Ayton and the second Doncic, so here are my top guys in the lottery:

1. Mo Bamba
2. Jaren Jackson, Jr.
3. Marvin Bagley
4. Trae Young
5. Wendall Carter, Jr.
6. Mikal Bridges
7. Kevin Knox
8. Michael Porter, Jr.
9. Robert Williams
10. Troy Brown
11. Miles Bridges
12. Collin Sexton

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the Comments area or on the Twitter Factory @JasonWalkerNBA!

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