For the second year in a row, my dear friend Coach Jim Gaylor keeps the tradition of the Atlanta Hawks NBA Draft Depth Chart going. Last year, Gaylor’s highest-rated available players when the Hawks picked were Skal Labissiere and DeAndre Bembry. Labissiere lasted all the way to the 28th pick but proved to be among the steals of the draft. Gaylor told me he should have been in his top three.
In 2013 I started the Depth Chart tradition and, like Gaylor last year, got one of Atlanta’s picks right. My highest rated available when the Hawks picked were Lucas Nogueira and Gorgui Dieng. The jury is still out on Nogueira while Dieng has long been established as a rotation player. I wasn’t high enough on Dennis Schroder, who was the one pick former Hawks GM Danny Ferry got right.
Then in 2014, I struck gold with Rodney Hood as my 11th-rated prospect while Ferry blew another first round pick on Adreian Payne. In my last year doing the depth chart before handing it off to Coach Gaylor, the pickings were pretty slim. With Ferry out of the picture, Atlanta’s new front office tandem of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox traded the Hawks’ pick to land Tim Hardaway Jr. This turned out to be a prescient move. My top pick, Sam Dekker, has yet to prove anything at the next level. Kelly Oubre was probably at the top of a lot of boards where Atlanta picked, but Hardaway vastly outplayed him in the playoffs.
So once again, here’s RepATL’s 2017 Atlanta Hawks NBA Draft Depth Chart. Sirs not appearing in this film include Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith. Coach Gaylor likes every player on this list better as a prospect than either player. Given Gaylor’s track record of projecting future stars like Kawhi Leonard and CJ McCollum, I’m not inclined to argue.
1. De'Aaron Fox
De'Aaron Fox's freshman NCAA Tournament scoring record while guarded by Lonzo Ball was not an optical illusion. Fox is the best player in this draft.
2. Zach Collins
If Kristaps Porzingis were available for this draft and NBA scouts knew as much as they knew one month into his actual career, he would be the first overall pick. Collins' combination of outside marksmanship and rim protection make him a candidate to be the next modern NBA big man. Nobody else has Collins ranked this highly. RepATL's depth chart is not heavily influenced by outside thought.
3. Markelle Fultz
The Celtics traded out of the top spot for a reason. SportCenter anchor Michael Eaves tweeted that some within the organization were unimpressed with Fultz' workout in which he disappointed with his explosiveness. And there's one fact about Fultz that's inescapable. Washington didn't win during his tenure. A future NBA star should be able to win against college competition.
4. Josh Jackson
Josh Jackson is the best wing in this draft and the safest bet outside the top two point guards among the consensus top eight.
5. Jonathan Isaac
Once again, RepATL busts up the consensus top eight with a player that's rated this highly by almost nobody. And the reason is the same as it is for Zach Collins. Jonathan Isaac is a late bloomer who spent a lot of time at guard and wing before he sprouted to 6-11. The Warriors have shown there is no place in the modern NBA for traditional big men with narrow skill sets. To stay on the floor deep into the playoffs, big men must be multi-talented. That's what Isaac brings to the table.
6. Malik Monk
While Kentucky teammate Fox set an NCAA Tournament freshman scoring record, Malik Monk, as tweeted by noted NBA Draft observer Cole Zwicker, is the most efficient freshman volume shooter off the bounce since at least 2006. In an era dominated by players like Stephen Curry, who can pull up from anywhere, Monk could be a valuable sixth man like Lou Williams -- or he could be a whole lot more.
7. Lonzo Ball
If you can get past the noise generated by his father and the disappointment of the NCAA tournament, there's a really solid, pure point guard here. If he goes second to the Lakers as so many expect, it will be the best situation for Ball. Magic Johnson is creating a culture that LaVar Ball can't disrupt. And Lonzo will have the opportunity to learn from the best point guard to ever bounce a ball. If he slips, however, it won't be a shock to RepATL.
8. Justin Patton
The theme continues as another big with perimeter skills comes off our board. Justin Patton didn't reach his full potential this season after Creighton point guard Maurice Watson's knee injury. Patton showed promise with 53 percent three-point shooting, but in only a tiny 15-shot sample. One of the greatest tests for a modern big man is the ability to switch onto perimeter players defensively. It appears this will be a strength for Patton.
9. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum may have some of the highest offensive potential in this draft, but his ability to create his own shot or defend against NBA wings will remain suspect until proven otherwise. Rating him here could be selling him short, but NBA Draft lore is littered with college scorers who struggled to defend at the NBA level.
10. Frank Ntilikina
This draft is a rarity among recent drafts in that it doesn't have a heavy international presence in the first round. Frank Ntilikina complicates matters because of the limited sample his limited role provided. His height and length, combined with athleticism, make him an intriguing prospect if his point guard skills develop to an NBA level. Giannis Antetokounmpo has taught GMs the danger of missing on raw prospects with the type of upside Ntilikina teases.
11. Terrance Ferguson
Much like Ntilikina, Terrance Ferguson is an international prospect whose body of work is completely insufficient to draw informed conclusions. Once again, just as with Antetokounmpo, GMs will be forced to bet on the potential of an athletic freak in Ferguson with an intriguing physical profile. Bet right and an NBA team could end up with a multi-position switching defensive wing with a shooting stroke that's textbook despite his sub-32 percent results from three as a pro in Australia.
12. Justin Jackson
Justin Jackson is an extremely accomplished college player who isn't seen as among the top prospects in this draft. He shot 37% from three and performed well in agility testing at the NBA Combine. But Jackson's handle is average and he lacks the strength to guard larger wings at the NBA level. Nonetheless, there's enough three-and-D potential, despite a lack of explosiveness, that Jackson could end up being a mid-first-round steal.
13. Semi Ojeleye
A 6-5 prospect with a 6-9 wingspan, Semi Ojeleye is a three-and-D prospect who is among the best shot makers in the draft. Ojeleye had a fifth-best 40.5 inch max vertical at the Combine and was top ten in lane agility and three-quarter court sprint. He's physically impressive with a 241 pound frame with only 5.5 percent body fat. He shot over 42 percent from three on a plentiful sample of over 100 shots. He played power forward in college so he will need to prove that he can convert to a wing at the NBA level.
14. Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell has been climbing up draft boards due to his impressive workouts and the results of athletic testing at the Combine. Mitchell is only 6-1 but sports a 6-9 wingspan. He's a 'tweener and a streaky shooter but he was also an All-ACC defender. There are enough tools here that Mitchell should have a long NBA career.
15. Jordan Bell
Projected by many as a second round pick, Bell is simply too dominant an athlete not to make an impact at the NBA level. His offense is limited primarily to dunks at this point, but some NBA team will figure out a way to get productive minutes out of him as a defensive roleplayer.
16. TJ Leaf
TJ Leaf is another stretch big man who shot nearly 47 percent on 1.7 threes per game at UCLA. He handles the ball well and is an excellent passer for his size. However, he hasn't impacted the game as a rim protector and doesn't seem ideally suited to defend the pick and roll at the NBA level. Regardless, if his shot translates, his total package of skills will keep him in an NBA rotation while he figures out the defensive end.
17. Bam Adebayo
As with Jordan Bell, Bam Adebayo is a limited offensive player who simply can't fail to make an impact in the NBA due to his elite athleticism. He's a dominant rebounder who races up the floor and draws a ton of fouls. Traditional big men have less and less of a role in the modern NBA, but Adebayo is only 19 and still has time to develop offensively.
18. DJ Wilson
A late bloomer as a stretch big, DJ Wilson came into his own this season with Michigan by shooting 37 percent on 3.8 three-point attempts per game. He's another player who grew up on the perimeter and experienced a late growth spurt. The knock on Wilson is that he may be a little too enamored with floating out on the perimeter. His defensive technique and awareness isn't refined, but he's another big man with a sufficient package of skills to carve out a long career in the NBA.
19. Anzejs Pasecniks
Anzejs Pasecniks, a teammate of Kristaps Porzingis on the Latvian national team, looks like another European big man who could make an impact in the NBA. Standing 7-3, Pasecniks shows flashes of being able to attack close-outs with his dribble and create shots for himself. He shows good form on his jumper but there's not enough of a sample to say if he will be able to stretch the floor as an NBA player. He's shooting just 57 percent as a professional from the free throw line. On top of that, he hasn't been able to earn substantial minutes at Gran Canaria due to his unimpressive defense and physicality. Despite the drawbacks, this is a potential draft-and-stash candidate that could have quite a bit of upside.