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Peachtree Hoops: Mock Draft: Okoro lands with Hawks in mid-July projection

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It’s still (very) early.

With the seemingly never-ending delay before the NBA Draft Lottery arrives in August, mock draft season is getting a (much) later start than usual in basketball circles. After all, the draft itself was originally scheduled for late June and, by this point, Summer League is normally in full swing in Las Vegas. Still, a few weeks have elapsed since a mock draft was dissected in this space and, on Tuesday, Sam Vecenie of the Athletic released his latest projection, which included the Atlanta Hawks making the No. 6 overall pick.

At the outset, that is a relatively unlucky lottery outcome for the Hawks, with only a 25.74 percent chance to land at No. 6 specifically and a sub-50 percent chance to slide out of the top five entirely. Still, Atlanta lands an exceptionally intriguing prospect in Vecenie’s projection, selecting Auburn freshman (and local Atlanta product) Isaac Okoro.

Vecenie notes that, in his view, “the Hawks should be looking for the best available two-way option that doesn’t play the center or point guard position,” and further noting that “Okoro fits that mold.” While not everyone would agree with that characterization of Atlanta’s draft approach, Vecenie recently joined the Locked on Hawks podcast to discuss Atlanta’s core and some draft options and, during that discussion, he noted that the rumor mill is churning around the Hawks and potential interest in Okoro.

Okoro, who stands at 6’6 with a projected 6’9 wingspan and an impressive combination of quickness, power and agility, brings a lot to the table on both ends. First and foremost, he is an impressive on-ball defensive prospect, perhaps representing the best potential in the entire draft class as a lockdown wing defender, and Okoro plays with impressive acumen on both ends. That includes an offensive profile that boasts underrated play-making and the ability to generate attempts at the rim, leading to optimism about overall efficiency.

At the same time, Okoro does have a defined weakness with his perimeter shooting, which Vecenie discussed in his write-up.

Ultimately though, a lot hinges on the shot being passable when he’s open. I’m not a huge fan of the mechanics at the top, as he has a pretty real hitch he has to work through. This is likely going to be a multi-year process. But in that vein, you’re betting on the human being involved here, and Okoro gets strong marks for being considered an extremely hard worker and a high-character kid. Still, this is a risk, for sure. If he doesn’t shoot it, it’s going to be much more difficult for him to make a high-level offensive impact.

In Atlanta particularly, he would have a bit more freedom as a non-shooter in lineups with Trae Young, John Collins, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter. But the offense would likely struggle a bit more in lineups with Clint Capela on the floor. There would also be a bit of overlap with De’Andre Hunter, the team’s No. 4 overall pick last year. But Okoro is a much different defender than Hunter. Whereas Hunter is better on-ball and gets by via innate understanding of angles and using his length, Okoro is more of a pure athlete with high-level off-ball prowess. I think the duo would complement each other well on that end. The same could be said for Okoro and Reddish. And obviously, having another option to unleash on guards to help out Huerter and Young would be a tremendous help.

Overall, it isn’t a surprise (at all) to see Okoro projected to Atlanta, both due to Vecenie’s assertion that the Hawks could be interested and because of how the draft board sets up in this example. It is certainly possible that the Hawks could display interest in players like Devin Vassell, Tyrese Haliburton and/or Killian Hayes, all of whom are highly regarded and available in this projection, but Okoro does bring an intriguing overall profile.

It will be interesting to see how the mock draft wheel churns in the coming days, especially with the uncertainty concerning the draft order until Aug. 25. At the very least, the Hawks will be in possession of a top-eight pick in advance of the draft on Oct. 16 and, considering Atlanta’s hopes for contention in the immediate future, the team’s 2020 selection is one that Travis Schlenk and company hope will be their last near the top of the draft for quite some time.

Stay tuned.

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