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  1. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this space, we glance at University of Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley. With the NBA gearing up to restart the 2019-20 season in Orlando, much of the focus has been on the day to day status of the league at large and less about the impending draft which is inching closer by the day. However, for the eight teams not heading to the bubble, the next few months will be spent analyzing every inch of the incoming NBA Draft class, with a sprinkling of free agent analysis also in the mix. NBA general managers are at a disadvantage this year with the college season being cut short so, in some ways, prospects like Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley, who had solid college data coming into this season, are going to be well sought after. Quickley declared for the 2020 NBA Draft back on April 13, forgoing his final two years of collegiate eligibility for a chance at sticking with an NBA squad. The SEC Player of the Year and All-SEC first team selection will be a hot commodity in the draft as he has built a good name for himself since being pegged as a top prospect coming out of high school. Quickley at one point in his recruitment process was ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the country by Rivals, No. 19 by 247 Sports and No. 25 by ESPN’s rankings. As a freshman in Lexington, Quickley showed early signs that he would be a force in the SEC. However, with other prospects already ahead of him in the starting lineup, Quickley did not always see starter-level minutes. As a freshman, he only averaged 18.5 minutes per game, but his numbers in that small sample size were impressive. His shooting percentages were very promising in particular, as he shot 41 percent on two pointers and over 34 percent on three pointers. Although it was a season shortened thanks to COVID-19, Quickley took a large step forward as a starter in 2019-20. This year, Quickley’s shooting volume predictably jumped from four attempts as a freshman to 11 attempts per game as his floor time grew. The more impressive thing is that, as his volume increased, his percentages also increased. Especially so in the three-point department, where his percentage jumped to nearly 43 percent on about five attempts per game. Quickley only had two games this season in which he did not convert a three-pointer and several games in which he hit more than three shots from deep. He even had one game early in the season against Texas A&M where he went 8-of-12 from downtown in very impressive fashion. Quickley also improved on his free throw shooting from an already solid 83 percent to over 92 percent. This is especially promising because of his more than acceptable free throw rate for a guard. This season, Quickley averaged over five shots per game at the line. In short, Quickley’s central appeal to professional teams will be his shooting prowess. Though he is somewhat limited in terms of size at 6’3, Quickley is one of the better pure shooters in the class and, if a team is evaluating him, it is the first thing to notice and file away. While his shooting profile is a great calling card for the modern NBA playing style, Quickley still has some growing to do in many departments where he is a bit raw. Quickley shows some promise as an athlete on the defensive end, but he can get caught off guard sometimes. His stats don’t do him any favors (1.6 percent steal rate, 0.5 percent block rate), but Quickley does have a solid frame with decent hands that could find their way into more passing lanes with the right instruction and increase in aggression. Point blank, a team is going to draft Quickley based heavily on his shooting prowess and they will hope that the former Kentucky guard will grow in other areas to eventually provide a well-rounded game. He is an older sophomore prospect at 21 and, without substantial gains elsewhere, his game is not well rounded enough to likely be a starter at the next level. From the standpoint of the Atlanta Hawks, Quickley is widely projected to come off the board before the No. 52 pick, but significantly after Atlanta’s lottery pick. Based on mock drafts, it is even possible that a team near the end of the first round — like the Lakers or Celtics — could nab Quickley, projecting him in a specialist role, before he even hits the second round. Shooting is a top need in the NBA right now, so Quickley definitely has the right specialty to succeed. It will simply be interesting to see if he can play enough defense and/or create enough for others to stick around somewhere. View the full article
  2. College Park SkyHawks Miller is the first woman to hold the title of General Manager in the history of the NBA G League. The 2019-20 G League season was officially cancelled in early June and, prior to the stoppage prompted by COVID-19, the College Park SkyHawks posted a 20-23 record in their inaugural season in the market. In addition to the close proximity to Atlanta and the advantages that provides to the Hawks, the Gateway Center Arena @ College Park opened to rave reviews and the future is bright for the G League franchise. With that as the backdrop, the SkyHawks are making history with a front office promotion, as Tori Miller will become the team’s general manager and the first woman to hold that title for any G League organization. Miller’s promotion, first reported by Sarah Spencer of the AJC, comes alongside several front offices announcements in both Atlanta and College Park. Former Skyhawks General Manager Derek Pierce will continue to oversee Atlanta’s scouting department in his role as Vice President of Player Personnel for the Hawks. From there, the Hawks promoted Dwight Lutz to Senior Director of Basketball Strategy and Analytics, Zac Walsh to Director of Team Operations, and Max Horowitz to Senior Data Scientist. The Hawks also announced the hiring of Justin Howe as Assistant Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist. Miller, a native of Decatur, Ga. and a graduate of the University of Miami, was promoted to assistant general manager on July 30, 2019 after spending two years as the manager of basketball operations in both College Park and Erie. Before arriving in Erie to join the then-BayHawks, Miller worked for the Phoenix Suns from 2014 through 2016. Stay tuned. View the full article
  3. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports Continuing our series with a look at the team’s crop of frontcourt options. Over the next few weeks, Peachtree Hoops’ Zach Hood will run through a ‘State of the Atlanta Hawks’ series. The series will break down the roster from both a basketball and asset building perspective in an effort to access where the franchise is after being left out of the 22-team Orlando bubble. The Atlanta Hawks had a gaping hole at center for much of the 2019-20 season following the departure of Dewayne Dedmon and the early-November suspension of John Collins. That left Alex Len, Damian Jones and Bruno Fernando as the Hawks’ primary bigs and problems arose as a result. President of basketball operations Travis Schlenk then notoriously traded for two centers before the February deadline. He brought in Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets — in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick — and reunited Dedmon with his former teammates in a trade that sent Len and Jabari Parker to Sacramento. Capela still hasn’t played for Atlanta, while Dedmon was mostly the same player from his previous stint with the club, though he did suffer from a bit of a shooting slump during the 2019-20 campaign. Going into 2020-21, head coach Lloyd Pierce will have a much deeper frontcourt than he has had to work with in the past. A presumably healthy trio of Capela, Dedmon and a combo big man in Collins should leave the center position in good hands. If Fernando can continue to develop, he could potentially carve out a consistent role as well. Clint Capela, C, 26 years old, 3 years, $51.31 million remaining Capela played just 39 games for the Rockets in 2019-20, averaging 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. He was also averaging 1.8 blocks, just short of his career high. The Hawks officially listed the injury as plantar fasciitis and a right calcaneus contusion upon acquiring him from Houston. Capela, the No. 25 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, spent six seasons with the Rockets. He developed into one of the better ‘rim-runners’ in the league and is also a good defender in the interior, with some ability to switch out onto smaller players if needed. Capela signed a 5-year, $85 million contract extension in the summer of 2018. John Collins, PF/C, 23 years old, 1 year, $4.14 million remaining — Restricted free agent in 2021 Collins is entering a contract year in 2020-21, which is no secret by now. It’s also not a secret that he was playing at an All-Star level when the coronavirus hiatus began. The third-year big was putting up crazy numbers with equally appalling efficiency. Collins finished the season averaging 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on 66% TS and 40% from three. If Collins is able to replicate that performance in 2020-21, the Hawks may have no choice but to match the highest offer he receives in restricted free agency next summer, which could very well be a maximum contract. In the meantime, he is eligible for a contract extension this summer. Dewayne Dedmon, C, 31 years old, 1 year, $13.33 million remaining — $13.33 million team option for 2022-23 with $1 million buyout The Hawks lost Dedmon to a big 3-year, $40 million offer last summer, but were able to get him back after things didn’t work out for the big man with the Kings. The last year of his deal being non-guaranteed, combined with the Hawks’ likely lack of desire to have Parker exercise his player option, was enough for Schlenk to pull the trigger and bring Dedmon back despite the large contract for 2020-21. Dedmon will be in line to the be the primary backup center, and overpaying him for one year in case something happens to Capela is not the worst plan. He is also a well-liked locker room presence, and Atlanta is on the record as prioritizing that appeal with Dedmon. Bruno Fernando, C, 22 years old, 2 years, $3.30 million remaining — Restricted free agent in 2022 Going into the season, minutes are far from guaranteed for Fernando, which is a bit odd for him. He played a good bit as a rookie, yet is now in a position to potentially play less in his second season. The additions of Capela and Dedmon likely leave him as the fourth center, as Collins will probably still see 10-12 minutes a game at center. It is worth nothing, though, that both Capela and Dedmon have battled injuries in the past, which could open the door for Fernando. Expiring bigs: Skal Labissiere, Damian Jones, Vince Carter (retired) Offseason outlook It would seem unlikely that Atlanta would invest significant capital in another big man between now and the start of next season, via the draft, trade or free agency. The club could bring back Labissiere on a minimum as depth — or acquire another low-cost option as insurance — but Jones is likely to land elsewhere. The biggest potential wrinkle could be a Collins trade, as he is entering the final year of his rookie contract and there have been questions as to what exactly is going to unfold, to say the least. Barring a big change such as a Collins trade, if all goes well Atlanta’s frontcourt should be in the best shape it has been in since the days of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Contract info from Early Bird Rights; Listed ages reflect players’ age for 2020-21 season. View the full article
  4. Photo by Patrick Albertini/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images The young big put up some impressive numbers, but was it enough to grab the attention of NBA clubs? In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this installment, we examine Mega Bemax big man Marko Simonovic. Mega Bemax — formerly known as Mega Leks — has been known for a) its colorful uniforms and b) its reputation to house young talent, sending several of its players to the NBA Draft. Recent players on that list include Goga Bitadze, Ivica Zubac, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, current Hawk selection Alpha Kaba, and most famously, Nikola Jokic. Most recently, Adam Mokoka wasn’t selected in 2019 draft but was signed to a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls. Mega Bemax is proven to be a solid place for young players to join and stand out — not just in terms of the uniform (which is a reason everyone remembers Mega Bemax for). In 2020, they might have another name to add to the list above. After enjoying a solid season with the colorful club, 20-year-old big man Marko Simonovic has entered his name into the hat ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft. For the season, Simonovic averaged 16.8 points per game on 51% shooting from the field on 11.5 attempts per game, 31% from three on 2.5 attempts per game, 80% from the free throw line on 5.2 attempts per game, eight rebounds, 3.5 offensive rebounds, 1.2 assists, one steal, 1.2 blocks, 2.2 turnovers and 3.8 personal fouls per game in a starting role where he played 29.7 minutes a game in a total of 24 games in all competitions, per RealGM. There’s quite a bit to unpack in those stats, but it’s probably easier to do it as we go along. We’re going to dive into some film, get this party started and go from there. For reference, Simonovic wears No. 11 on the court. Starting with offense, pick-and-roll is at the fore of the majority of Simonovic’s repertoire. He’s a willing screener, an active screener — things that obviously help when there’s a lot of pick-and-roll action. After being unable to find fruit in the post, Simonovic passes out of the post and comes to set the screen before rolling to the rim, receives the ball, brings it down on the catch and away from the defenses outstretched arms to finish at the rim with his left hand: On this play, Simonovic sets the screen, rolls and is tossed the alley-oop, which is duly converted with the dunk: Here, again, Simonovic sets the screen and rolls, receives the ball and adjusts underneath to finish under the rim: This next play I really enjoyed as Mega Bemax run horns pick-and-roll, with Simonovic being the beneficiary as he’s found for the alley-oop: Simonovic draws quite a number of fouls per game, attempting over five free throws a game, and he earns quite a number of these in pick-and-roll scenarios. Simonovic slips the pick-and-roll on this possession, receives the ball and draws the foul on the upward motion, leading to free throws: On this possession, Simonovic sets a screen to create a switch, the ball-handler takes the opposing big off of the dribble, breaks the defense down and finds Simonovic for the lob: Here, from the out-of-bounds play, Simonovic sets the screen, receives the ball after the ball-handler draws the defense, and finishes at the rim with the dunk: Moving a little away from pick-and-roll, per se, on this possession, Simonovic sets the initial screen and then a second screen for the ball-handler, before receiving the ball inside and uses some solid footwork as he turns towards the rim on the catch to get himself into a strong position where he draws the foul and free throws: Let’s, briefly, move onto three-point shooting, obviously a key area of play for the modern big. Simonovic attempts over 2.5 three-pointers per game, shooting only 31% from distance, and a number of these came in pick-and-pop/screen-and-fade scenarios. Starting with one of the three-pointers Simonovic actually made in these scenarios, he sets the screen, drifts to his right and behind the three-point line, receives the ball and hits the three: Heading down the floor, Simonovic executes a quick screen before he’s found for an open three-pointer: Here, Simonovic sets the screen and steps behind the three-point line, where he is found and misses the three-point attempt: On this play, again, Simonovic sets the screen and retreats to the three-point line where his attempt is missed: Let’s briefly continue the theme of Simonovic and setting screens, this time in a capacity that helps his teammates and less so when it comes to his own offense/scoring. Starting off, Simonovic sets a good screen and open up the space required for his teammate to take and make the three-pointer: Here, Simonovic sets the screen and opens the opportunity for his teammate to let it fly and convert from three: One of Simonovic’s strengths offensively is quickness at his size and position, using this to beat his opponents off of the dribble and create opportunities. On this possession, Simonovic gives a little fake, drives from the top of the three-point line, gets by his man and finishes with the dunk at the rim: Here, Simonovic — again, at the top — drives by his man but this time can’t finish the finger-roll layup at the rim: As you can imagine, Simonovic’s strong foot-speed is to his benefit in transition/fastbreak opportunities. After giving the rebound to his teammate, Simonovic continues his run in transition, receives the ball and picks up his speed en-route to slam dunk: After collecting the rebound after a teammate’s block, Simonovic exchanges the give-and-go with his teammate before, again, accelerating and taking off for the alley-oop: Continuing the theme of running the floor, Simonovic contests a shot that misses, heads down the floor is found for alley-oop after a great pass over the defense: Let’s move onto a strong aspect of Simonovic’s offense, offensive rebounding, and the doors that opens up offensively. Simonovic averages 3.5 offensive rebounds a game and posts an offensive rebounding percentage of 13.3% — 3.5 offensive rebounds per game is no joke. He has a nose for an offensive rebound, doing so here on the tip-in after a missed shot from the outside: Off of his own miss this time, the offensive rebound is collected by his teammate, who has an attempt himself before Simonovic follows that attempt through and dunks at the rim on the offensive rebound: Coming off of the pick-and-roll, Simonovic is arguably unlucky he isn’t found on the first look but manages to end up on the scoresheet as he grabs the offensive rebound, using his physical advantage, and scores the putback: Simonovic does well to stick with the action, highlighting his motor as he follows through on his own miss to score at the rim: Simonovic can also operate in the post some, adding to what is a pretty diverse offensive game. On this possession, he finds himself in a favorable situation after a switch and goes to work, backing down his opponent, turns and hits the right-handed hook: Against an opponent with a bit more size, Simonovic is more so allowed to back down and get closer to the rim before the defender steps into Simonovic’s space after his spin, but Simonovic is able to bank in the right-handed hook: Simonovic is also capable of drawing some of his free throws in the post too, doing so on this possession as he moves across the paint: Sometimes Simonovic has just benefited from being in the right place at the right time, in place to receive dump-offs at the rim, such as on this possession after the defense is broken down and the opposing big has to leave Simonovic: All of that looks great: a well-rounded offensive game from the inside and, partly, from the outside on his way to an efficient 16.7 points per game on 51% from the field and 60% true shooting. He is efficient, for the most part, but his skills aren’t as well refined as perhaps the numbers would make it appear. The most glaring aspect is probably the 31% shooting from three on those 2.5 attempts per game. We’ve looked at some of these misses already but we’ll look at one or two more. This is... not a good three-point attempt. Shot selection can be an issue with Simonovic at times: On this next possession, I liked what Simonovic did off the ball here as he sets the screen off the ball but once he receives the ball for the three-point opportunity, it’s not a clean release and the miss isn’t great: Simonovic does have some issues at the rim too at times, both when it comes to general finishing and finishing second chance opportunities. On this possession, Simonovic sets the screen, rolls to the free throw line untracked, receives the ball, fakes and drives toward the rim but is thwarted by the outstretched defense and misses near the rim: Here, Simonovic engages in two pick-and-roll attempts, receiving the pass on the second action, fakes, drives when the defender leaves his feet but can’t finish at the rim in the traffic: Simonovic gets a switch on the pick-and-roll this time and calls for the lob, which he receives but cannot finish at the rim: Again coming out of the pick-and-roll, Simonovic receives the ball in space, misses the shot as he can’t hit over the defense, grabs the offensive rebound but his second attempt on the turnaround hook is also missed: Pick-and-roll, Simonovic collects the offensive rebound but can’t follow the second chance home near the rim: Another issue when it comes to Simonovic can be his tendency to commit fouls. We’ll be looking at this defensively but it also applies offensively too, racking up an average of 3.8 fouls per game...with a five foul per game limit. We’ll look at a few, just to see the different scenarios these can come in. From the three-point line, Simonovic receives the ball, drives but extends his forearm and is called for the offensive foul: Here, Simonovic does well to create space for his teammate and leads to a decent shot but commits a needless, and slightly clumsy, foul on the rebounder: Simonovic is a willing screen-setter but does find himself committing offensive fouls on said screens at times: Offensive fouls obviously lead to turnovers, which Simonovic commits over two a game. His footwork could probably use some refinement as he commits a few travelling turnovers on occasion, such as in the post here: Here’s another while heading down the floor, forgetting to put the ball on the floor after he receives the pass and begins his drive (blowing the dunk after the whistle is blown only adds insult to injury): We’ll summarize Simonovic’s offense as a whole at the end, but that’s an insight into his offensive game: what he’s capable of doing and some of his shortfalls. Let’s move onto some playmaking attributes. Honestly, this will be quick because there’s not a lot to talk about here, averaging 1.2 assists per game. Simonovic shows an occasional flash of touch/vision but these are few and far between. This didn’t lead to a basket, but after the screen, Simonovic receives the ball, drives and makes a nice read of the offense and execution of the pass to a teammate behind the three-point line: Nothing high end here, but Simonovic receives the ball in the post in transition. The defender attempts to reach in, compromising his position, which forces the defender at the rim to focus on Simonovic, who makes the quick read and bounce pass to his teammate for the dunk, the assist going to Simonovic: Out of the post again, Simonovic sees the cutter and, as the second defender arrives, finds his teammate for the assist at the rim: On the pick-and-roll hedge, Simonovic receives the ball and drops a nice bounce-pass to his teammate on the baseline after the cut, who finishes at the rim: Let’s move onto defense, and there’s a fair bit to talk about here, given how Simonovic is a big and it’s always more than just individual defense here. What stood out to me watching Simonovic on defense was his verticality and his ability to make life uncomfortable for defenders in/around the rim with his size and length. Here’s an interesting play to kick off with... On the out-of-bounds play, Simonovic is alert to cover the danger at the rim, rotating away from his man to contest the shot at the rim, which is missed. However, his team is unable to collect the defensive rebound, and the ball is kicked back out to the perimeter. Simonovic switches off here for a second as he allows the man he was boxing out to collect the offensive rebound, before the pass is made to the cutter. After that shot is missed at the rim, Partizan somehow end up with the ball again and Simonovic offers another defense at the rim, using his verticality to deter the shot attempt at the rim and, eventually, comes away with the rebound: We’ll get into more, but I feel that encapsulates Simonovic on defense pretty well: the potential can be there, and he can affect shots but he can also switch off at times. This is a well executed defensive possession from Simonovic. The pick-and-roll is run, he doesn’t completely leave the ball-handler after the screen but is also placed well to quickly turn his attention to the big. When said big receives the ball, Simonovic is able to quickly turn and raise his arms and makes life difficult, forcing a tough shot which is missed: This time Simonovic is the big sat in front of the rim and has to rotate when his teammate is beaten with the spin move in the post, deflecting the attempted pass with his length and helps force a turnover: In the post again, Simonovic moves his feet well and raises his arms as the offensive player gets to the baseline, forcing a tough shot and a miss, from which Mega Bemax are able to claim the ball: Let’s continue on the theme of 1-on-1 defense and we’ll get back to some team defense later. On the pick-and-roll, Simonovic initially drops back but when the ball is given to the pick-and-roll big for an attempt outside, Simonovic is unfazed by the jab-step and contests a three-point attempt well, which misses: Here’s another solid defensive sequence where Simonovic gives multiple efforts. Off of the initial pick-and-roll, Simonovic steps in to plug the gap, forcing the ball-handler to pass out of the current situation. The ball is worked to the wing, where the ball-handler drives, Simonovic switches after the defender is beaten and does well to contest the fadeaway shot, which misses. On the offensive rebound, Simonovic is part of the crowd to deter another shot at the rim and comes away with the rebound and begins the fast break: Plays like this next one will be super important. On the pick-and-roll switch, Simonovic stays on his toes, ready for the drive but also ready to contest any shot that goes up, and he raises a hand to contest well on this three-point attempt which is wide right: Let’s look at some more quick rotation stuff (a little more than pick-and-roll switches). On the wing, the defender is beaten on the drive but Simonovic is there to rotate and block the shot and beginning the fastbreak: Here, Simonovic shows good awareness as he rotates and closes off the driving lane on the baseline after the spin puts him in position to get by his man: There are issues for Simonovic defensively, and I would definitely describe him as a mixed bag on that end. I said before he can be prone to switch off/lapse at times... Here, Simonovic actually marshals this pick-and-roll pretty well and telegraphs the pass but mishandles it when he probably shouldn’t have, and it leads to an easy basket: On this play, a momentary lapse from Simonovic as he back-pedals toward the rim leads to the lob being connected upon: On the out of bounds play, Simonovic is caught between ball-watching and calling out on defense, and by the time he realizes he’s too far from his man on the perimeter it’s too late, and the three is made: I’d say Simonovic’s biggest problem defensively right now is his tendency to commit fouls: nearly four a game. These, as you would imagine, come in a number of different forms. On the offensive rebound, Simonovic is called for the over-the-back foul: On the drive, Simonovic is there to protect the rim but when the extra pass is made — while he gets his body turned in time — he bites on the fake and commits the foul, leading to free throws: On the drive from the wing, Simonovic rotates but commits the foul on the challenge at the rim: You get the idea, and we’ve obviously looked at offensive fouls Simonovic commits too: he just commits way too many fouls on both sides of the ball. Let’s try land this thing... Offensively, Simonovic has the basis of a solid, well-rounded game. His pick-and-roll offense can be solid and it’s at the fore of his game offensively, but his touch near the rim could stand to show improvement. In general, I think Simonovic’s touch at the rim could improve. I wouldn’t call it bad, but it could be better. I enjoy his energy on the offensive glass and his multiple effort plays that can come with those — effort is one thing that definitely translates into the NBA. Perhaps Simonovic wouldn’t need to grab as many offensive rebounds if he converted his first opportunities. The biggest key to Simonovic’s offensive growth is a reliable three-point shot — he needs to improve on 31%. The pick-and-pop option is one I enjoy watching Simonovic use, but 31% makes that a little difficult to do on a consistent basis. In terms of playmaking, I’d actually like to see whatever teams Simonovic ends up at to tap into that aspect a little more — I think he has some feel at that position. Defensively, I like the lateral quickness and the potential. I think it’s possible he could defend multiple positions, maybe even some of the more averagely paced threes, as well as fours and fives (off of the dribble, strength-wise, this could be a little tougher). However, Simonovic is a little inconsistent defensively at times — if he could make fewer errors/lapses and cut down the fouls, I’d be interested in the potential here. In terms of draft selection and NBA fit, I think Simonovic is a perfect candidate to be drafted and then stashed. Well, that is if he is drafted, of course. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks Simonovic 86th on his latest big board, while ESPN rank Simonovic lower than that on ESPN’s list of top 100 players available, ranking 97th. That surprises me somewhat, I did expect that to be closer to the 50’s/60’s — this is a player, a high energy big-man, who moves well on his feet at 6-10. From there, he turns 21 in October (which isn’t old), and he averaged over 16 points per game on 50% shooting from the field in a legitimate league in the Adriatic League. Simonovic is carving out a nice, diverse offensive game, and he has potential on defense if he can stay engaged and cut out the fouls. I wouldn’t bring him over immediately if drafted, but I think Simonovic could be one of those players who a team may take a gamble on in the 50’s and it could pay off. If it doesn’t? Does anyone really care about whether, say, the 54th overall pick doesn’t work out in what people are labeling as a historically bad draft? I see much more potential in Simonovic than I did Rodions Kurucs pre-draft, and Kurucs ended up contributing on that Brooklyn team in his rookie season — it wouldn’t surprise me if Simonovic did the same thing if he was (a) drafted, (b) brought over. All that said, I am kind of surprised Simonovic is declaring this year and keeping his name in the hat. I think he could be a player that, with a good season next season (as Amar Sylla is hoping to do, and what Abdoulaye N’Doye did from last year to this year), he could rise up the boards if he shows improvement. But, to be fair, you could go the other direction: if Simonovic is ranked like this in this year’s draft... what does that say? Honestly, it could go either way. If he didn’t come to the NBA, that wouldn’t be a surprise. If he came to the NBA and things worked out off of the bench, that wouldn’t be a surprise either... Marko Simonovic could worth a stab in the second round. Will any team take the gamble? Time will tell. View the full article
  5. Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports He leaves as one of the most accomplished in conference history. Is there an NBA future in his career? In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we evaluate William & Mary big man Nathan Knight. Even as the NBA moves away from offenses built around post-up play, teams can never have enough forwards or centers with double-double potential on a given night. Nathan Knight fits this bill, as he emerged as a walking 20-and-10 big man and the best player in the Colonial Athletic Association as a senior during the 2019-20 campaign. Statistical profile Knight checks in at a broad-chested 6’10” and 253-pounds. He was a four-year player and three-year starter at William & Mary, appearing in every single game over that span and starting all but two in his last three years. He amassed a career line of 23.2 points on a 57.9% eFG%, 10.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes. Kenpom calculates his ORtg as 114.0 this past season, putting him at 7th in the entire country for players that qualify. During his junior season, he became the first player to average more than 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks per game since Tim Duncan in 1996-97. The obvious caveats about arbitrary cutoffs and level of competition apply of course, but if your name is on a leaderboard with Tim Duncan, eyes will open. His senior year even saw him add a three-point shot to his arsenal, hitting almost 31% per attempt on 4 tries per game. For these accomplishments, he was named the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year in 2019-20. NBA projection Strengths Knight was among the most dominant forces in his conference by his sophomore year. He used his filled-out frame to carve out space in the paint on both ends and physically assert his will. At times, he looked like a man amongst boys. Opposing Colonial coaches are glad to see him graduate so they don’t have to build a game plan to counter him anymore. His jumper stroke is pretty smooth for a big man who only recently added significant shooting range. Even though Knight was a career 28% shooter from three-point range, his clean mechanics and career 74% shooter from the free throw line provide confidence that his jump shot is at least respectable. Knight is very nimble for someone his size and has polished footwork in both the paint and ranging out toward the free-throw area. He has a variety of spin moves going both left and right to get to the rim. Knight can handle the ball to create for himself, with comfort going either right or left. It is a joy to watch him size up his opponent and take him off the dribble with comfort, as he does on two consecutive and almost identical possessions below. Here, he just uses his overwhelming physical present to bully his way to the basket and finish with authority. He is smart about when and where to post up, and excels in the early post up in slow transition opportunities. Knight can find and hit the open shooter when teams double him in the post with an on time and accurate pass. Similarly, the ball doesn’t stick in his hands when operating in the flow of an offense. Knight doesn’t lack for fight when it comes to the offensive glass. It looks like he loves throwing his body around. A wise man one said “board man gets paid.” Knight boxes out routinely and is as fundamentally sound rebounding on the defensive end as on the offensive end. Even when he’s beat on defense, he can sniff out opportunities and time his jump to erase his opponent’s shots. Also, a 7’2 ¼” wingspan doesn’t hurt. Knight can also provide help defense away from his man, like the play below with him slamming the door on a drive down the lane. Despite his large frame, Knight never missed a single game, logging over 3,300 minutes on the floor. We’ve seen so many big men develop foot or lower body injuries compounded by their size that nag them throughout their career, but Knight doesn’t fall in that category. He entered the NBA Draft process last summer before returning before his senior year, so NBA team representatives have seen his competitive drive and ability to work on his game firsthand already. Weaknesses Knight is a slow-footed and at times plodding big man, and the league is moving toward more mobile and rangy big men. His game isn’t particularly fluid or aesthetically pleasing, and would best be an asset on a team looking to play a slow, below the rim brand of basketball, a style that is quickly going extinct in the NBA. He would be an easy fit on a 2010-2017 Memphis-style grit and grind type of team. Knight even reminds me of Zach Randolph as someone who doesn’t possess a lot of leaping ability but makes up for it with his craftiness and leverage. The big difference lies in that Knight would rather play with his back to the basket than face up. While he is a very good paint protector, Knight can be exposed on defense if he has to step out and defend in space. He shies away from showing hard while defending screens and chooses to drop almost every time, which will allow for NBA-level shooters to hurt him from long range. In the below clip, Knight gets caught ball watching and loses his man on the back screen. Knight can fail to secure his screens before slipping them and rolling to the basket. There is no issue with his motor or hustle, but these little things will help in fit into a broader spectrum of schemes at the next level. Knight also struggles with foul trouble, as a career 4.1 personal fouls per 36 minutes metric shows. Here, he gets baited into committing the charging foul. It’s simply a mental error against a smaller guy. All in all, Knight just doesn’t have elite athleticism that is required in the NBA. And even though he helped lead the Tribe to a 21-11 record this past season, Knight is hurt by playing in a mid-major conference that ranked 17th out of the 32 Division I conferences by Kenpom. In addition, he’ll be 23 by the time the draft eventually rolls around, surely a negative in the minds of many front offices. Possible fit with the Hawks A four-year small conference double-double machine who recently added a three-point shot may remind some Hawks fans of Mike Muscala, especially when considering that Atlanta hosted Knight for a pre-draft workout in 2019. Knight figures to play the center full time at the next level at 6’10”, although he could conceivably moonlight at the power forward position if his newly added ability to stretch the floor isn’t a mirage. His productivity and efficiency may get him a look late in the draft, but Knight’s future probably resides in a different league for the time being. With the Hawks acquiring both Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon over the course of last season, the center position has gone from lacking to having many options. With Damion Jones entering restricted free agency, the Hawks could turn to the draft for a replacement but, even then, Atlanta does have 2019 second-round pick Bruno Fernando already on the roster. I don’t believe Nathan Knight would be the ideal investment target for Atlanta. The Hawks used a post up to end a possession just 2.6% of the time, 6th-fewest in the league. Similarly, Atlanta was in the top 5 in pick-and-roll possession ended by both the ball handler and the roller. This is to say Knight’s game would not be a good fit for the club as he was infrequently used as a roll man. I’m a sucker for four-year college players who are extremely productive, as they’ve worked on their game over that span extensively under the guidance of college coaches. If any team wants to zag and build a ground and pound scheme in the era of spacing, Nathan Knight would be a good second round selection for that roster. View the full article
  6. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Around 100 prospects will be profiled in this space, today’s player is Baylor big man Freddie Gillespie. With the NBA Draft now less than four months away, we still know very little in regards to pre-draft workouts and if any sort of combine would be possible. While the top tier guys may have separated themselves over the past few years, it can get a bit muddy when breaking guys outside of the top 15 or 20 into tiers. With lost games, no in-person visits to team facilities, and the potential of no combine for prospects, it will be more difficult for guys to set themselves apart down the stretch. Baylor big man Freddie Gillespie became an effective Power 5 starter after starting his career in Division III with Carleton College. A defensive center prospect, Gillespie stands 6’9 and never attempted a three-pointer in two seasons at Baylor. However, his wingspan makes him an interesting defensive prospect. Gillespie told Jon Chepkevich of Professional Basketball Combine his wingspan is 7’6 on PBC’s 2020 NBA Draft Remote Film Room Series. Gillespie’s path to the league is undoubtedly as someone who will do the dirty work on both ends of the court. Offensively, he presents spacing issues as he’s likely never going to shoot threes. Defensively, his wingspan is obviously a huge plus and provides promise that he might be an effective anchor despite being only 6’9. Given that he’s mostly a consensus fringe top-100 prospect, Gillespie’s most likely path to the league initially is via a Two-Way contract. It is certainly possible he’s drafted in the 50’s, though. The spacing-driven offensive schemes that dominate the league today present challenges for Gillespie’s ability to fit within a team system. His ability to knock down an open 15-footer, combined with the fact that he appears to be a decent screener, does provide him enough offensive tools to potentially carve out a rotational role in the NBA. The 23-year old is not amazing around the rim, but he is a high effort player, and he wills in his fair share of layups, dunks and put-backs on the offensive glass. Gillespie is never going to be a prolific offensive weapon, but he’s also the type of player that gets zero plays called for him. Gillespie had only 12 points on 24 post-up possessions for Baylor last season per Synergy Sports. This is not his strong suit. He’s the type of big that would almost exclusively score off of drop-offs from a playmaker. His role would not be far from the role Damian Jones played for the Hawks last season if Gillespie is able to stick in the league despite the size disparity in those two players. Jones didn’t start attempting threes until he had been in the league for a while, and that’s probably the best case scenario for Gillespie as a shooter as well. He’s not the same kind of vertical athlete that Jones is, but probably has a better motor and more natural feel for the game. The point of that comparison is not to be literal, but more of an example of a Hawks player in recent memory that was able to score some because of their ability to set screens for playmakers and clean up around the basket. With Atlanta set for the 2020-21 season at center with Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon, Bruno Fernando and John Collins all set to return, the addition of Gillespie would seem unlikely for the Hawks. Even if Atlanta did need center depth, Gillespie is not the type of big Travis Schlenk has been prone to take a flier on in the second round of previous drafts. In 2018, Schlenk drafted Omari Spellman with the No. 30 overall pick. Then, in 2019, he selected Fernando with the No. 34 pick. Both of those prospects were billed as offensive minded centers with above average ball skill for their position, but perhaps question marks defensively. That is quite the opposite of Freddie Gillespie. View the full article
  7. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images In the lead up to the NBA’s decision to restart the 2019-20 campaign in Orlando with only 22 teams, the Atlanta Hawks made it abundantly clear that the organization was interested in continuing its season. Once the decision was formally made to omit the Hawks and seven other NBA franchises from the “bubble,” Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce issued a joint statement, which concluded the statement that the team remains “engaged in finding ways for our team to compete and continue the important growth and development that was a core focus for our team this season.” On Thursday afternoon, word broke from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Jackie McMullan that the NBA is nearing an agreement for a second “bubble” setup in Chicago, with the Hawks presumably joining the other seven clubs for a gathering that could begin in September. McMullan notes that “the league sought assurances from teams they will send their players if they move forward with the bubble format,” and Schlenk spoke on the subject of player participation in early June. “This is where it gets tricky,” Schlenk said of the potential of Summer-League style games. “When you start talking about your team, when we have guys on our roster who are going to be free agents, and they’re going to have a different view on taking part in scrimmages or games with free agency looming over them. We’ve tried to be very mindful of that as we’ve tried to put together a proposal to take to the league and realizing that there’s guys in different stages in their career. It’s just something that we’ll have to negotiate, but again, we’ve been extremely mindful of guys that might be going into free agency and understanding why mandating something for them probably isn’t as realistic as some of our younger guys, if that makes sense.” During that same media availability, Schlenk and Pierce conveyed hope for timely answers on what the Hawks would be able to do during this extended hiatus. While a few weeks have passed, a September gathering of some sort would help to bridge the gap between the end of Atlanta’s season in March and the arrival of the “real” offseason, beginning with the NBA Draft and free agency in mid-October. Stay tuned. View the full article
  8. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we examine New Mexico State wing Trevelin Queen. When ESPN’s Kevin Pelton released his initial statistical ranking of the top 30 prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft, many of the biggest names available made appearances. As one would expect, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Isaac Okoro and others made the cut but, along the way, there was a significant surprise in the top 20. New Mexico State wing Trevelin Queen landed at No. 19 overall and, when considering his national profile, that felt like a major shock. After all, Queen is far from a household name after playing in the WAC, and the 23-year-old is also considerably older than most of his counterparts in the 2020 class. Still, a deeper look at Queen does reveal some intriguing strengths that NBA teams could value, even if a top-20 perch still may seem lofty. After two years of junior college play at New Mexico Military Institute, Queen debuted for NMSU in 2018-19, appearing in 25 games as a pure role player off the bench. In his second campaign, the 6’6, 190-pound wing became much more of a focal point, making 25 starts in 26 games and playing 27.5 minutes per contest. In terms of the box score, Queen’s stats don’t jump off the page, especially when considering the weak level of competition in the WAC. He averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 2019-20, though he did post a more than solid 58.8 percent true shooting. It is Queen’s defensive projection that turns heads, though, and that is his ticket to prospect status. Queen’s 3.9 percent career steal rate jumps off the page first, with the wing averaging 2.6 steals per 40 minutes over two seasons. In his ESPN rankings, Pelton notes that, among prospects 6’6 or taller, “only Michael Carter-Williams had a better projected steal rate than Queen, who is also an above-average shot-blocker for a wing.” To throw a bit of cold water on the blocked shots, Queen’s numbers really spiked in his first season (in a small sample) before leveling off in a big way, but he certainly profiles as a defensive playmaker, which is also visible on tape. In addition to the ability to create havoc in passing lanes and with his sharp hands, Queen understands how to function within a defensive scheme. He is able to deny position using his length and frame and, while he needs to get stronger, there is reason to believe he will. As a rebounder, Queen was probably more effective on the offensive glass, but he posted a solid enough clip (15.4 percent) on the defensive glass when accounting for his size and role. From there, it is important to note that Queen plays hard and consistently competes. As a player that will certainly be a small-usage role player in the NBA if he makes the cut, Queen needs to bring that motor to the table. Offensively, it is a bit of a mixed bag for Queen, though there are tools that could useful in the aforementioned small-usage role. He displays strong vision for a wing and, with a 20.8 percent career assist rate and the general ability to avoid turnovers, Queen is a solid passer at worst. Queen is also a pretty good athlete that excels in transition, at least at this college level, and he is active in moving without the ball. His shooting numbers were also good this season, knocking down 38.7 percent from three-point range on 5.3 attempts per game, and Queen displays good touch. Along the way, some of his shot selection wasn’t exactly stellar, but that likely won’t be an issue when he falls into an NBA pecking order where he is not being relied upon for difficult shot-making. There are reasons to be a little bit worried about Queen’s offensive repertoire, including some real concerns about his finishing. After all, he wasn’t overly productive in a traditional sense as a (very) old prospect at a fairly low level in college, but Queen does flash useful traits as an offensive role player. Ultimately, it won’t be an overwhelming surprise if Queen isn’t drafted in 2020, simply because of where he lands on mainstream big boards. The metrics do like him — as evidenced by Pelton’s numbers — and that should help to prop Queen up in the minds of some analytic-friendly franchises, but his age and competition level might scare teams off as well. From the lens of the Atlanta Hawks, Queen is a player that should be at least in modest consideration at No. 52 overall, as he profiles as a very solid defensive prospect that can be connecting tissue on the offensive end. Perhaps more likely, Queen might be a good Two-Way gamble to bet on his tools, but despite his modest pedigree, it isn’t difficult to see how he may fit in to the NBA world. View the full article
  9. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports What ammunition do the Atlanta Hawks have to load up for next season? Over the next few weeks, Peachtree Hoops’ Zach Hood will run through a ‘State of the Atlanta Hawks’ series. The series will breakdown the roster from both a basketball and asset building perspective in an effort to access where the franchise is amidst what could be up to a nine-month layoff for Atlanta and other teams outside of Orlando playoff bubble. The Atlanta Hawks endured an unfortunate abrupt end to their 2019-20 campaign, an ultimately disappointing season where they won just 20 of 67 games. The COVID-19 NBA shutdown from March that seems like years ago within the scope of everything else going on in our country, is set to conclude later this month when 22 teams begin to ramp up activity in anticipation of meaningful basketball games being played. With the Hawks being one of the eight teams that didn’t make the cut to resume the 2019-20 season, their focus can now fully move to the offseason. The Lloyd Pierce-driven 2021 playoff declaration from an early March practice now seems like a distant memory. With nine players under contract for next season, general manager Travis Schlenk will be looking to fill in the open spots with the right pieces to turn the club into a roster that features the depth and versatility they have lacked the past two seasons around young stars Trae Young and John Collins. The biggest asset towards improving the franchise in a rapid manner is obviously the immense salary cap space the Hawks possess this fall. Depending on what pick the team lands in the lottery, Atlanta will presumably (barring trades) have around $47-50 million in space come mid-October when free agency opens up. Schlenk could use this money on the free agency market, or in a trade for established player(s). Here’s a look at Atlanta’s cap sheet heading into the offseason period, courtesy of Early Bird Rights: Earlybirdrights.com Here’s a look at the team’s draft capital over the next three offseasons: 2020 draft picks: No. 4* (pick to be determined by lottery), No. 52 2021 draft picks: Atlanta’s own 1st, Miami’s 2nd 2022 draft picks: Atlanta’s own 1st, Oklahoma City’s 1st (protected 1-14) The Hawks finished with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, giving them a 48.1% chance of picking in the top four, and a 12.5% chance of picking No. 1 overall in 2020, with a guarantee of picking in the top-8, and a 97.8% chance of picking in the top-7. Here is a full breakdown of Atlanta’s lottery odds by slot: 1st: 12.5% 2nd: 12.2% 3rd: 11.9% 4th: 11.5% 5th: 7.2% 6th: 25.7% 7th: 16.7% 8th: 2.2% Based on having the No. 4 pick, the Hawks would have $47.75 million in cap space this Fall per Early Bird Rights, with a potential John Collins extension being a noteworthy caveat. That amount of space will leave general manager Travis Schlenk with an abundance of options to ponder on both the free agent as well as the trade market. With Collins, Young and Huerter all due for raises in the next two years, the club may choose a more prudent path than fans are expecting. The most obvious path to adding premier talent is the draft. Where the Hawks fall in the lottery obviously has huge influence on the type of player they can get, especially in the 2020 class that most experts universally agree is lacking elite prospects at the top of the board. For Atlanta, they’d probably love to trade the pick considering the youth they already have in place. If the lottery works out for them and they have a shot at Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, holding the pick becomes more tempting. Bringing in another young wing who will likely initially be a negative to compete for minutes with the existing wing core of Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish does not align with Pierce’s playoff proclamation. There are expectations now with Trae Young coming off an All-Star season, and Collins potentially primed to make his first All-Star game next year. The team is ready to win and taking a rookie likely does not contribute towards that goal this season. While that may be against the philosophy of stacking up young talent like the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans have done over the past couple years, the Hawks may be at a point where they want to cash in on the value instead of taking a swing on a prospect like Devin Vassell or Issac Okoro. Trading the pick for a reliable shooter or defensive presence could be more valuable to the existing core than developing a cheap role player through the draft. The Hawks had a major experience problem in 2019-20 nonetheless, and this offseason will become about adding experience to the roster at some point, whether it’s on draft night or shortly after. View the full article
  10. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports Awareness is only the first step. After acknowledging change in the country is necessary, State Farm Arena and the Atlanta Hawks took it a step further with action. State Farm Arena is now home to Georgia’s largest voting precinct ever. The venue will allow all Fulton County registered residents to vote in the upcoming elections while adhering to the CDC social distancing guidelines. The station is open to the public on July 20, which is when early voting for the Georgia General Primary Runoff Election on Aug. 11 begins. Fulton County Registration & Elections will operate election tasks at the site like processing absentee ballots. Leadership from the Hawks offered up the arena as a voting location. It is a proposal head coach Lloyd Pierce brought to light during a protest with the NAACP. “We oppose Senate bill 463 that limits the ability for us as citizens to exercise our right to vote,” Pierce said during the rally, as captured in a video by AJC’s Sarah Spencer. “I want to finish saying I was born a Black man, and I know one day I’ll die a Black man. Just as a lot of players and coaches that are on this stage, but I don’t want to die just because I’m a Black man.” The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, a government agency, is the owner of the property and leases the site to the Atlanta Hawks organization. The sudden NBA suspension in March due to the coronavirus pandemic put a halt on many Hawk-related employees’ incomes, but the election gives them the chance to return to work. Hundreds of Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena full-time and part-time employees will be trained to serve as election workers to further support the operations. “Fulton County is grateful to the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for being an outstanding partner,” Robb Pitts, Fulton County Commission Chairman, said. “Tony Ressler, Steve Koonin and their organization have once again demonstrated that the Hawks are True to Atlanta.” Over 1,500 parking spots around the arena will be complimentary for vehicles with one registered voter. MARTA is also reopening its Mercedes-Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, Georgia World Congress Center, CNN Center stop to accommodate voters. Many organizations talked about change in the wake of George Floyd’s death and protests against social justice. Most professional sport franchises posted a black square in solidarity with Black people. With this latest move, however, the Hawks are one of the first organizations to go beyond acknowledging the issue to enter the next phase, which is action. View the full article
  11. Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images Does Martin have what it takes to jump from high school directly to the NBA? In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we take a closer look at Kenyon Martin Jr. Most fans will recognize this name, even if you’ve never seen the 19-year-old high schooler play basketball. Kenyon Martin, Jr., or K.J. Martin, is indeed the son of former No. 1 overall pick and 15-year NBA veteran Kenyon Martin. He is attempting an unusual, but no longer unprecedented in the post-2005 world, move from high school straight to the NBA, similar to Thon Maker, Anfernee Simons, and Darius Bazley before him. Martin spent time at Chaminade College Preparatory School before finishing his undergraduate high school career at Sierra Canyon High School, both located in the San Fernando Valley area of the Los Angeles metro. He initially accepted a scholarship to Vanderbilt University before reversing course, instead heading to the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla for a postgraduate year in 2019. In addition, during his true senior season, Martin played on the Oakland Soldiers of the AAU circuit. While at Sierra Canyon High School, he played alongside another son of an NBA star, Scottie Pippen Jr. The school is now acting as a host to two more after Martin’s departure, with Lebron James (Bronnie) Jr., and Zaire Wade, son of Dwyane, on campus. Statistical profile Kenyon Martin Jr. is a 6’7”, 215-pound forward with great leaping ability and change of direction. During his most recent season at IMG, Martin shot 35% from three-point range on a low volume and 67% from the free throw line, according to information from Jonathan Givony of ESPN. In addition, he was active on the defensive end, recording over a block and a steal per game. In one matchup, Martin finished with a monster 34 points, 16 rebounds, 5 steals and two blocks in 38 minutes in IMG Academy’s 100-95 win over Hargrave Academy (VA), according to information from Tarek Fattal. Martin played for IMG’s post-grad basketball team, a separate entity from their varsity squad. With the AAU Oakland Soldiers (on an extremely small sample size of 146 total minutes), he logged an average of 30.6 points on 60.2 TS% and a gaudy 23.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, according to RealGM. Frankly, it’s pretty tough to find reliable stats from either of two different prep schools, who are notoriously guarded about the game stats of their players. This, in conjunction with playing a national schedule against varying levels of play at the high school and postgraduate level, make for a tough determination of Martin’s true talent and ability. NBA projection Strengths Martin personifies quick-twitch athleticism with burst to the rim virtually unparalleled for someone his age. Mixtape content creators have plenty of material to work with as the younger Martin routinely throws down nasty windmills and tomahawk dunks. He played a conventional forward position all throughout high school, and showed the ability to take smaller defenders to the post and flip in shots with either hand. Martin showed an aptitude for setting early post ups and clearing space with his lower body. Interestingly enough, he chooses to dribble and finish around the basket much more with his left than his right, although he shoots jump shots right-handed. The youngster’s post defense is much more refined than his perimeter defense. He comfortably played the 5 for stretches at Sierra Canyon — and infrequently at IMG — against smaller lineups and serves as a formidable shot blocker and rangy paint protector. He even took turns tipping off at times, just in case a team needs a jump ball safety blanket. This snippet shows his impressive weakside help defense, smothering a sure dunk from the backside cut. In the below clip, Martin has good awareness to jump the ball handler off the screen and cut off the lane. He then times his jump to block Precious Achiuwa, a bigger forward and probable 2020 first round pick from Memphis. Martin had a notable improvement in his ball handling from Sierra Canyon to IMG Academy, and he showcased his ability to move the ball well in half court sets and run a fast break with similar talent around him. He has fantastic straight line speed that rivals even the fastest guards in his age bracket. He favors using his left to whip passes around in open space, showcasing his ambidexterity whenever possible. Martin is generally pretty active on defense, contesting every shot possible despite shorter than ideal wingspan. His pick-and-roll game is solid when used as the screener. He’ll give up his body to set a stiff pick and at times can be a terrifying roll man. In the case he or a teammate blows a layup, Martin has an impressive second bounce, getting off the floor quickly for offensive rebounds. Martin has obvious athletic pedigree and has attended two of the most prestigious prep schools for basketball careers. He added noticeable layers to his game in his last two years, indicating a willingness to work on weak aspects of his game. Weaknesses The elephant in the room is the level of competition in which he last played. While opponents like Montverde Academy in Florida and Huntington St. Joseph Preparatory School in West Virginia have become magnets for high ranking postgraduate high schoolers to play basketball before the collegiate and professional level, it remains a large leap in talent away from the NBA. Furthermore, Martin didn’t exactly dominate at that level. He was often just a complementary piece when sharing the floor with other top prospects. The postgraduate route Martin took most elite NBA prospects wouldn’t consider, and in the process, he missed out on an opportunity at the Division I level or as a professional elsewhere. Martin’s jump shot isn’t particularly refined, and he was hesitant to let even open shots fly, indicating a lack of confidence in his stroke. He has a low gather point and his elbows flare out at the top of his release which makes for inconsistency at long range. At a lean 6’7” frame, he’ll have to learn to be a modern combo forward and make the defense respect his jumper at the next level. Although a willing passer, Martin just doesn’t create for his teammates at a high level. He can press on offense and put up blinders when he has the ball down low or at the elbow. This translates into throwing up less than ideal attempts at the basket. In the clip below, Martin doesn’t recognize the sliding man coming to double him in the post which should have alerted him to pass out to the opposite wing. Similarly, Martin can fall asleep on help defense and his motor on that end varies significantly play to play and game to game. The below clip should have seen him immediately switch on the screen. It did not play out that way. Martin did occasionally step out and challenge perimeter shots and switch onto perimeter men on screens, but he generally isn’t too refined in that area. Certainly he possesses the lateral agility to defend outside the paint, but not always the length or awareness to do it effectively against professional athletes. Possible fit with the Hawks It may be long shot that Kenyon Martin Jr. would be drafted at all in 2020. To my somewhat untrained eye, he doesn’t pop off the tape as much as a high schooler who is looking to leap to The Association should. The Hawks, as of late, have preferred multi-year college players with their draft picks, with Trae Young and Cam Reddish being the only notable exceptions. However, there is very little opportunity cost should Atlanta choose to use their No. 52 overall pick (via Houston) on Martin with future projection in mind. Martin’s pure bounce and defensive upside may earn him a spot on an offseason roster with a chance to prove himself. With that being said, his path to the NBA may be through a different professional league where he can play outside the paint more and sort out his jump shot mechanics to become a two-way perimeter player. Only at that point would Martin fit into a pace-and-space spread scheme Lloyd Pierce and Atlanta’s coaching staff have roadmapped for this young team. View the full article
  12. Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we take a look at Cal State Northridge forward Lamine Diane. The 2020 NBA Draft class is a difficult one to evaluate for a number of reasons. First, the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2019-20 college basketball season short, allowing for fewer opportunities to monitor game film. From there, several top-tier prospects battled injuries and/or elected to shut things down early due to other reasons, including maintenance of draft stock. Finally, the 2020 group wasn’t ever considered to be elite in terms of overall talent and, with a dearth of top-tier options, opinions vary wildly on many available prospects, all the way to the top of the lottery. With that as the backdrop, Cal State Northridge forward Lamine Diane is both interesting and perilously difficult to evaluate for many reasons. Diane, who is listed at 6’7 and 205 pounds, was a three-star high school prospect out of Findlay Prep in Nevada and, with his pedigree, it might feel surprising that Diane ended up in the Big West Conference. Diane is also significantly older than most prospects, turning 23 years old in November despite only two seasons of college performance to track. Diane took a redshirt year as a result of a wrist injury in 2017-18 — further contributing to his placement as an older prospect in the 2020 draft class — and he also ran into academic issues in the first semester of the 2019-20 campaign. As a result, he appeared in only 52 games at the college level but, because of the way Diane was able to produce, the talented forward was able to garner back-to-back Big West Player of the Year awards. Candidly, the Big West does not present the most overwhelmingly difficult competition, and that fuels the fire of this difficult evaluation. Still, Diane was dominant at the college level, averaging 25.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.6 steals per game in those 52 career appearances. While Diane does have collegiate eligibility remaining, he declared for the 2020 draft in early April and, in short order, made it clear that he wouldn’t be returning to Cal State Northridge. As such, he doesn’t have the same kind of decision that many projected second round (or undrafted) prospects will be making in the coming days, producing even more intrigue about where he might land. Athletically, Diane stood out in a significant way in the Big West and, while he may not be an uber-elite athlete, he is certainly an above-average one. He is a terror in transition, pushing the ball aggressively in gran-and-go situations, and Diane’s motor is persistent and highly appealing. One of the questions about Diane’s game is with his jump shot, with a 66 percent mark at the line in his second season. That 66 percent mark did represent an improvement from his first campaign, though, and his mid-range shooting was actually quite effective in college. Still, Diane converted only 28.6 percent of his three-point attempts on only mild volume (2.9 attempts per game) and, to reach his ceiling, shooting is an area in which he must tangibly improve. Diane isn’t without offensive weapons, though, and he maintained strong efficiency despite out-of-this-world usage (38 percent) at Cal State Northridge. He produced an obscenely high free throw rate, attempted 14.6 shots per 100 possessions at the charity stripe this season. While that almost certainly can’t continue, Diane’s grab-and-go ability and aggressiveness in attacking the rim are quite valuable. He also was quite efficient in the restricted area, shooting 72.5 percent at the rim despite only having 48.5 percent of his field goals assisted to be teammates. To put it plainly, he was often a one-man band. As a play-maker, there are definitely questions, though they may be eased in the smaller role that he will have to play in the NBA. Diane’s assist rate did jump to 18.2 percent in his second season and, as a passer, there were some nice flashes along the way. He was prone to carelessness, though, and that resulted in 4.9 turnovers per 100 possessions in his career. Defensively, Diane is definitely a mixed bag, though his motor is fun to watch in almost any circumstance. He produced a very encouraging 6.2 percent career block rate, and Diane showed strong help-side instincts on film. He won’t have the kind of raw athletic advantages that he enjoyed in college when arriving in the NBA, but Diane is also a very good defensive rebounder (24.9 percent DREB in two seasons) and that provides optimism about his translation to being an NBA power forward. In an overall sense, Diane is thoroughly difficult to evaluate, in part because of the poor competition. He truly did dominate the Big West, and his athleticism really pops, as evidence by his leaping, quickness and ability to change ends rapidly. Diane wasn’t always consistent in his performance, though, and his motor, while a weapon, can only carry him so far without skill development and the ability to carve out a flexible NBA role. At present, Diane lands at No. 60 for The Athletic and at No. 71 for ESPN in terms of NBA Draft big boards, and it is far from a lock that he’ll be selected in October. Teams — like the Atlanta Hawks — with picks in the back half of the second round will certainly want to take a deep look at Diane’s tape, however, and there is a lot to like in his evaluation. Comparisons to Pascal Siakam have followed Diane since he began dominating at the college level and, in some ways, you can see why when comparing the college film. More realistically, Diane likely isn’t going to reach the All-Star level that Siakam has achieved. If he can harness his motor, intriguing mid-range game, rim attacking and defensive potential into a total package, though, it would be silly to let his advanced age and competition questions rule Diane out of consideration with picks outside the top 40. Stay tuned. View the full article
  13. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images When the 2019-20 NBA season came to a screeching halt on March 11, the Atlanta Hawks were in the middle of a game against the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena. Eventually, the Hawks lost the game in overtime — improving their draft lottery position in the process — but, aside from the focus on COVID-19 and the substantial fallout from the league’s stoppage, most of the additional attention was paid to Vince Carter. The future Hall of Fame forward checked in and knocked down a three-pointer in the final seconds, with many speculating it could be the final shot of his 22-year career in the NBA. Carter repeatedly hinted at retirement, both before and during the 2019-20 season, and the wide assumption was that Carter’s career was over when the Hawks were excluded from the Orlando bubble. On Thursday, Carter spoke with Annie Finberg on the “Winging It” Podcast and officially announced that he is stepping away from the sport as a player. “I’m officially finished playing basketball,” Carter said on the podcast. “I’m officially done playing basketball professionally.” While the announcement came as no surprise, it is a moment of finality for Carter. Over the course of more than 70 minutes, Carter went into detail on his feelings and experiences during two decades in the NBA, and the full conversation is certainly worth a listen. On Thursday morning, the Hawks also released an official statement on Carter’s retirement. “Over the last two years, Vince Carter has been a committed leader, respected mentor and influential example on the court, in the locker room and in the Atlanta community,” the statement reads. “Throughout his historic 22-year journey covering an unprecedented four different decades, his evolving career arc was perhaps like none other in league history – from Top 5 Draft Pick to Rookie of the Year to Slam Dunk Champion to superstar and eight-time All-Star to Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year and valuable role player. It’s an honor to the Hawks organization that he completed his Hall-of-Fame career wearing Atlanta across his chest and representing our city.” With eight All-Star appearances, more than 25,000 points scored and a substantial impact on the game, Carter leaves a tremendous legacy and he should soon be enshrined in Springfield as a result. Stay tuned. View the full article
  14. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images The off-season is here in full force for the Atlanta Hawks and, as a result, much of the focus with the franchise centers on the draft and free agency. Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk has assembled an intriguing young core, however, and a recent ranking of the best prospects currently in the NBA reinforces that belief. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic set out to produce “one massive, omnibus, top 50 ranking of the best prospects league-wide,” citing an “expected value equation” in the process. Ultimately, the Hawks were well represented, with each member of the franchise’s youthful quintet landing in the top 39. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Trae Young is the highest-rated player on the list, coming in at No. 5 in a tier that projects “potential Hall of Fame trajectory.” The 21-year-old guard averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game while acting as the central engine of Atlanta’s offense in his second season, and Young made a leap that can only be described as genuinely encouraging, both for himself and the path of the organization as a whole. From there, John Collins comes in at No. 20 overall, with Vecenie saying “his productivity has been genuinely special for his age.” Collins, who doesn’t turn 23 until September, averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season while producing a video-game level true shooting percentage of 65.9 percent. That offensive explosion, coupled with genuine defensive improvement, outlines an interesting future for the former Wake Forest big man and, while there are a handful of players ahead of him on this list that could be seen as controversial, Collins falls in a tier occupied by “high-level starters with All-Star upside.” In the back half of the top 50 list, Atlanta’s trio of young wings was recognized, with Cam Reddish at No. 28, Kevin Huerter at No. 36 and De’Andre Hunter at No. 39 overall. Vecenie discussed all three at length in a recent visit to the Locked on Hawks podcast but, in short, he remains a fan of each young player. Reddish’s strides in the second half of his rookie season are well-documented and, considering his defensive performance and offensive potential, the former Duke wing’s two-way potential is incredibly interesting. Reddish’s tier description was “high-upside prospects, but there are flaws here,” and he ranks ahead of fellow 2019 lottery picks Coby White, Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver, Jaxson Hayes and Rui Hachimura, in addition to Hunter. Based on his ranking (though not explicitly), Reddish would land at No. 4 among soon-to-be second-year players, and that is substantial praise. As for Huerter, Vecenie recognizes his high-level shooting and more. Above all, he remains a monster shooter off the catch. Among the 162 players league wide to take at least 100 catch-and-shoot shots, Huerter was 14th in terms of efficiency with a 64.3 effective field goal percentage, and again that came in a year where he navigated a shoulder injury that held him to 32.4 percent from 3 in December as he played his way back into shape. Huerter is going to develop into one of the league’s elite level shooters. Hunter, who ranks fifth among Atlanta’s five-man group of youngsters on this particular list, still grades out as the No. 7 overall player from the 2019 class — ahead of some classmates in Culver, Garland, Hayes and Hachimura — with a nod to his play bringing confidence in the future. Hunter’s rookie season was weird, and yet his value was likely as expected. The weirdness came from his strengths entering the draft not totally bearing themselves out. However, his potential flaws were figured out in a real, tangible way that inspires some confidence long-term. Overall, Hunter established himself as a solid, steady rotational player, having played more minutes this season than any other rookie in the league. On the whole, it is clear that Vecenie stands alongside Hawks fans in conveying genuine optimism about Atlanta’s future. Lists like these are almost designed to inspire discussion in terms of where players are ranked — and this list is more than worth a full read even for non-Atlanta considerations — but the full takeaway should be the bright future of the Hawks, led by this five-some and the presence of a genuinely effective veteran in Clint Capela. Stay tuned. View the full article
  15. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images The 2019-20 Atlanta Hawks weren’t a flawless bunch. In fact, the Hawks landed near the bottom of the NBA standings, to the point where the team was not invited to continue play as part of the league’s 22-team restart in Orlando. Still, the future is unquestionably bright for the organization, and a significant part of that optimism stems from the youthful talent already on the roster. To that end, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic put together a league-wide ranking of the best young players on a team-by-team basis, with a simple prompt “to approximate something along the lines of ‘long term, which young players on which teams should make their fan bases most happy to have around?’” For the sake of context, the criteria laid out by Vecenie that was any player currently in the midst of a first-round, rookie-scale contract was eligible, and those prospects were joined by any player on his first contract, provided those players were selected in the second round of the NBA Draft. For the Hawks, that criteria allowed for the evaluation of 12 players but generally focuses on the top five — Trae Young, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter — and Atlanta’s group ultimately ranked No. 4 overall in the NBA. Quite obviously, the single biggest draw for Atlanta is the presence of Young, with the 21-year-old lead guard producing what Vecenie describes as “pretty mind-boggling” numbers in his second NBA season, earning a bid as an All-Star starter along the way. He averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists on a pretty ridiculous 59.5 true-shooting percentage. The players who posted at least that many points per game total on that level of efficiency? It’s a veritable set of Hall of Famers that sprinkle the NBA’s all-time elite. Try these names on for size: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Bird, Stephen Curry, Adrian Dantley, Kevin Durant, George Gervin, James Harden, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O’Neal and Kiki VanDeWeghe. That’s 14 guys, 13 of whom are Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers, plus VanDeWeghe who did it in one of the insanely uptempo Doug Moe seasons in Denver, where the Nuggets posted a pace that was absurdly nine possessions above the league average per game. And the number of players to post that scoring combination while also averaging nine assists? How about just Young this season and James Harden back in 2017? To complain about what he’s accomplished at this point would be missing the forest for the trees. And if you made me bet right now if Young will get into the Hall of Fame, I think I would say yes. Young is certainly the central reason why the Hawks rate as highly as they do in these rankings, in part because the object of any rebuild is to garner a true No. 1 option along the way. Young isn’t alone in appealing to Vecenie, though, with high praise for Collins as well. But here’s the thing. He’s become more than just a finisher at the rim. Collins has also added a significant jump shot threat. He hit 40.1 percent from 3 this past season, and the mechanics look crisp and clean. Basically, it’s impossible to guard him effectively as a scorer when he’s the screener. He’s an elite roller. He can short roll and attack off the bounce with quickness. And he can knock down shots. If you play drop coverage, he’s going to hurt you from 3. If you blitz Young or play tight, he’s so fast and so smart at slipping screens that he’s going to get to the rim too fast to recover. Really, the only thing missing in his arsenal is the passing read when teams crowd him. If he brings that, he’ll be one of the genuinely elite bigs in the NBA offensively. Even if he doesn’t, I think he’s going to make All-Star games. I’m honestly that high on Collins. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, with Vecenie saying that “defense remains a real concern” for Collins and expressing some hesitation about the much-discussed fit next to Clint Capela in the frontcourt. Still, it is fairly clear in the extended text that Vecenie is higher on Collins than the national consensus, providing some optimism about Atlanta’s 1-2 punch. It will, of course, be interesting to see how the Hawks handle contract extension negotiations with Collins in the coming weeks but, even if the two sides don’t come to an agreement, Atlanta will have match rights on the former Wake Forest big man as a restricted free agent in 2021, which is something to keep in mind. From there, Vecenie focused on the team’s young wings and, to put it bluntly, the entire deep dive is certainly worth a read. On Reddish, Vecenie writes that “the last six weeks of his season gave me a lot of confidence that he’s going to be very good.” That is backed up by Reddish’s steadily improving offensive numbers over the course of the season and, defensively, the bar was high from the outset. For Huerter, the sentiment is a bit more mixed given defensive questions next to Young but, on the bright side, Huerter is described as “a terrific prospect to have around” and “about as perfect an offensive fit as you’ll find for Young” in the backcourt. If nothing else, the 21-year-old wing has a highly marketable skill in his shooting and optimism reigns on his growth with a full (and healthy) off-season to improve his game. Finally, Vecenie summarizes Hunter by saying he “looks like a really solid role player who will start a lot of games going forward, and one who has a real shot to contribute to winning teams.” He does, as required by basketball law, reference the controversial trade executed to acquire Hunter on draft night and, in the end, that value may not be overwhelmingly positive for the Hawks. At the same time, Vecenie writes that “Hunter could become someone who turns into a $100 million player quite easily,” and that is reminder of the value that a high-level, versatile combo forward can bring as an effective role player. In the midst of a (very) long piece, there are notes on several more players, including Marcus Eriksson (!!!) and Bruno Fernando, but it is clear that Atlanta’s fabled “core five” gets most of the attention in a positive sense. With Capela on board, that nickname no longer makes as much sense because, well, Capela is certainly a part of the team’s core and, at present, the veteran center is Atlanta’s third-best player. For this exercise, though, Atlanta’s five central young players garner high praise from a trusted national evaluator, and only a small handful of teams grade better under this particular criteria. The short encapsulation from Vecenie is that the Hawks “have five really attractive pieces to build around” and, with Capela and the team’s own 2020 lottery pick to add to that group, the franchise is certainly on the rise in the NBA consciousness. Stay tuned. View the full article