Atlanta Will Win The NBA Draft Despite Picking A Plumlee

Yeah, you read that correctly.

The Atlanta Hawks are going to win the NBA draft despite drafting a Plumlee.

Atlanta is one of six teams with two first-rounders this year (Cleveland has 1 and 19, Phoenix is 5 and 30, Minnesota has 9 and 26, Oklahoma City has 12 and 29, and Utah has 14 and 21). Having first-round flexibility allows teams to be creative. Specifically, it allows teams to take risks.

One of the big risks teams with multiple picks are likely to take is to go international. Look at the 2011 draft when Cleveland, Utah, Washington, Charlotte, and Houston all went international with one of their two picks. Five of the eight international first-rounders were taken by teams with an extra number one pick.

Although they have the same average draft position as the Suns, T-Wolves, and Jazz, the Hawks are in a unique position because they have back-to-back picks.

Boston didn’t exactly take advantage of that same scenario last year when they took Jared Sullinger (a.k.a. Basketball Jesus) and The Most Fabulous of Melos, however Minnesota went international in 2009 with Ricky Rubio then Stephen Curry Jonny Flynn.

This year’s crop of international players isn’t quite as good as 2011, but it features some interesting characters. We have Brazilian Nerlens Noel (athletic shot blocker with crazy hair), German Rajon Rondo (quick point guard who can’t shoot), Russian Kyle Korver (white wing who can only shoot), and French Alexis Ajinca (Alexis Ajinca).

Remember the name Giannis Antetokounmpo. Or just remember there's a Greek kid with a crazy name.

Remember the name Giannis Antetokounmpo. Or just remember there’s a Greek kid with a crazy name.

And then we have the Greek Freak.

The man whose name is harder to spell than Mike Krzyzewski.

Giannis Antetokounmpo.

We don’t know a lot about the kid, but here’s what we do know: he’s athletic, he’s young, and he somehow ended up with an ‘n’ in his last name (I’m no translator, but where is the ‘n’ in γιαννης αντετοκουμπο?).

His highlights are enough to make scouts and fans alike salivate, although it’s slightly concerning that the grainy video looks like he’s playing in a middle school gym against church leaguers.

But he’s just an athletic freak–hence the nickname.

He’s 6’9″ 215 with a 7’3″ wingspan and massive hands. The kid’s only 18, who knows if he’s even done growing. He runs like a deer up the court with a nice handle–you’d be surprised how many players don’t have this simple skill–and he’s an explosive jumper. A great passer, Antetokounmpo often plays the point forward and has demonstrated three-point range.

So what’s the issue, why isn’t he the top pick in a noted weak draft? Well, he’s still a risk.

Antetokounmpo was playing glorified high school ball overseas and is very raw. He won’t go straight to the NBA, and scouts haven’t been watching him as long as domestic players. Hell, Darko Milicic blew away scouts and tricked Detroit into taking him over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

But Antetokounmpo’s name won’t be butchered by David Stern until after the lottery, and he likely won’t go until a team with multiple picks comes up. And this is where Atlanta comes in.

With two picks, the risk of wasting a draft is lessened. A team could go with two big gambles (Antetokounmpo and Lucas Nogueira), but they’ll more likely go with a safe pick and then a risk. I have the Hawks taking Duke big man Mason Plumlee directly after the Greek Freak.

Mason Plumlee won’t get fans excited. He won’t start many games–especially if they bring in Dwight Howard. But he’s a serviceable big man who can be a rich man’s Nick Collison. Teams aren’t looking for a starter outside the lottery of a normal draft, so Nick Collison isn’t a bad addition in a weak draft.

While drafting Plumlee won’t move the needle much, drafting a safe player (Plumlee will still be in the league five years from now) makes rolling the dice on Antetokounmpo a whole lot easier.

As I’ve said before, Antetokounmpo has the raw tools to become a star. But teams have to take a leap of faith on this guy, a leap of faith that his physical dominance on grainy footage in Greece can translate into dominance in 1080p HD in primetime on the biggest stage.

And I believe in him. He’s shown he can do a little bit of everything, and at the very least he’ll be a jack-of-all-trades point forward who defends well. Isn’t that Otto Porter? But if he maximizes his potential with strong coaching? He could become a better Paul George.

What’s not to love about this guy? DraftExpress lists his weaknesses as strength and explosiveness, perimeter shooting, defensive consistency, and lack of experience. All of those are correctable with experience, hard work, and coaching. It’s not like he’s physically held back by height or age like Shabazz Muhammad.

The Hawks will land a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. He may not make a mark in the league for a few years, but mark my words he will. And it’s all because they drafted a Plumlee.

I came out with my mock lottery the night of the actual lottery, and here is my fully fleshed out mock draft. I can guarantee you this is better than picking names randomly out of a hat.

1

Alex Len

C 7-foot-1 225 lbs Maryland 19 Years Old

Nerlens Noel is the top talent in the draft, but owner Dan Gilbert gave management a playoff mandate. Noel will miss a significant part of the season, and according to sources, the Cavs are willing to take a lesser talent in Len to win now. The Cavs have been confident in their scouting reports recently, though, drafting Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters ahead of where most people valuated them the past two years, so don’t be surprised if Len is the pick here.

2

Nerlens Noel

C 7-foot 206 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

Orlando will reportedly swipe up Noel if he falls to number two. I can’t blame them, I’d take him first overall. Victor Oladipo is also apparently their second choice, although I’d take him fifth at the earliest. I do wonder how Noel and Nik Vucevic will work together, though.

3

Otto Porter Jr.

SF 6-foot-9 198 lbs Georgetown 19 Years Old

Porter fits what the Wizards need (defense and versatility) in a position they need (small forward), and he even has a local connection (Georgetown and the Wizards gyms are 4 miles apart). This pick ultimately comes down to Porter or Anthony Bennett–sources close to the team said they won’t consider Noel. I personally prefer Bennett, but Porter is a better fit, since they already have Nene and plenty of offense from John Wall and Bradley Beal.

4

Anthony Bennett

PF 6-foot-8 240 lbs UNLV 19 Years Old

I think Anthony Bennett will become the second best player in the draft. I don’t see his size as an issue because of his length (7-foot-1 wingspan) and his explosiveness. Also, Anthony Bennett is Larry Johnson. As documented before, they’re the same size, they both went to UNLV, they put up almost the same numbers, and, oh yeah, they have the same birthday. I’m pretty sure Grandmama was reborn at age 24 in Toronto. That would explain the lack of polarizing personality and general friendliness.

5

Victor Oladipo

SG 6-foot-4 213 lbs Indiana 20 Years Old

I’m not high on Oladipo like other people are; I’m not sure he scores more than 12 ppg. But hey, I’m not actually a scout, and they value hustle and grit more than I value scoring. But at the very least, Oladipo will be Tony Allen, and that’s not a bad floor. In case you didn’t notice already, this draft is weak.

6

Trey Burke

PG 6-foot-1 217 lbs Michigan 20 Years Old

New Orleans would probably like Len here to match with Anthony Davis, but in this scenario, he’s not here. They have keepers at power forward and shooting guard (hey, remember Eric Gordon?) and that’s it. Ben McLemore is the best talent on the board, but he doesn’t make sense if Gordon is still on roster, so Burke becomes the pick. Sorry, Austin Rivers.

7

Michael Carter-Williams

PG 6-foot-6 184 lbs Syracuse 21 Years Old

Again, McLemore is the best talent left, but he makes even less sense with the Kings because they already have black hole shooters in Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Freddette, John Salmons, Isaiah Thomas, …

8

Ben McLemore

SG 6-foot-5 189 lbs Kansas 20 Years Old

How does this happen every year? Detroit has spent the past four years in the lottery, and each year a top talent inexplicably falls to them. McLemore is a great fit, since they’re looking for another guard. Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, and potentially McLemore? This isn’t fair.

9

C.J. McCollum

SG 6-foot-3 197 lbs Lehigh 21 Years Old

The Wolves are fiending for shooting, and that’s pretty much all McCollum can do. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a better all-around game, but this combo guard gives Minnesota what it needs.

10

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SG 6-foot-6 204 lbs Georgia 20 Years Old

Meyers Leonard hasn’t worked out yet–although it’s too early to make a call on him–so the Blazers will be looking for a two guard or a big man to go with LaMarcus Aldridge. Cody Zeller is too similar to Aldridge, and Steven Adams is too similar to Leonard, so I think KCP is the pick here. Yes, I realize that’s a lazy nickname for him.

11

Cody Zeller

PF 7-foot 230 lbs Indiana 20 Years Old

I accidentally called him Tyler Zeller in my mock lottery. Yep.

12

Steven Adams

C 7-foot 255 lbs Pittsburgh 19 Years Old

OKC doesn’t need a lot of things, but they could probably use some more size. Adams is a long-term project, but he already has NBA size. Really, he just needs more time around the sport (that has to be a good sign, right?), since he’s only been playing for five years. The Thunder can afford to take this risk as a potential great defensive big man to go with Serge Ibaka.

13

Dennis Schroeder

PG 6-foot-2 165 lbs Germany 19 Years Old

We know one thing: the 13th overall pick will not play in Dallas next year. Either this pick will be traded or the Mavs will stash a player in Europe. With Dario Saric out of the draft, Sergey Karasev is getting a lot of late helium, but we’re overlooking the most obvious fit. It’s the German kid! Dallas needs a point guard, since Darren Collison isn’t the answer, and Schroeder could learn easily under the wing of Dirk “Sportmeister” Nowitzki.

14

Shane Larkin

PG 6-foot 171 lbs Miami 20 Years Old

This is the nightmare scenario for Utah. They’re in dire need of a young point guard, and Burke, Carter-Williams, McCollum, and Schroeder are all off the board. They’re big fans of Shane Larkin, but they’d probably rather take him at 21. In this case, however, they can’t risk Milwaukee or some other team swiping him up, so he’s the pick here.

15

mil

Sergey Karasev

SG 6-foot-7 197 lbs Russia 19 Years Old

I don’t know what to think of the Bucks front court because Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and J.J. Redick are all free agents. When’s the last time a team had their entire backcourt of good players hit free agency at once? Anyway, they’re not all coming back and they’ll need shooting. Enter, Karasev.

16

bos

Shabazz Muhammad

SF 6-foot-6 222 lbs UCLA 20 Years Old

I don’t know how Shabazz’s star has fallen this far. He may not be able to do as much as we thought when he was coming into UCLA, but he can do one thing: score. There’s a place in this league for players who can scor

e, and the Celtics just need talented players as they enter a rebuilding stage.

17

atl

Giannis Antetokounmpo

SF 6-foot-9 215 lbs Greece 18 Years Old

You ready my intro, right?

18

atl

Mason Plumlee

PF 6-foot-10 238 lbs Duke 23 Years Old

You read the entry before this, right?

19

Jamaal Franklin

SG 6-foot-5 191 lbs San Diego State 21 Years Old

Cleveland is going with a center with their first pick, so they’ll get a perimeter player with this pick. There aren’t any point guards worth taking here, and I don’t see them taking Tony Mitchell (although I absolutely love him), so I have them taking a shooting guard who can’t shoot.

20

chi

Allen Crabbe

SG 6-foot-6 197 lbs California 21 Years Old

The one thing the Bulls really need, besides healthy players, is shooting. They may add a free agent or two to address that, but Allen Crabbe would be a perfect fit for them. They don’t need him to be a star, they just need him to knock down threes, which is about the extent of his skill set.

21

Lucas Nogueira

C 6-foot-11 218 lbs Brazil 20 Years Old

Once they’ve added a point guard, Utah will probably want to add size, since Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are free agents. Jeff Withey would make a bigger instant impact, and Mitchell has a higher upside, but Nogueira gives them defense that Enes Kanter and Derrick Favor can’t supply. Also, Nogueira is pretty much the same as Nerlens Noel–down to the crazy hair. Great shot blocking ability, extremely athletic, raw offense. Bebe’s just Brazilian and will be picked 20 picks later.

22

bkn

Tony Mitchell

SF 6-foot-8 222 lbs North Texas 21 Years Old

High upside, star power, meet Brooklyn.

23

ind

Kelly Olynyk

PF 7-foot 234 lbs Gonzaga 22 Years Old

White guy to Indiana!

24

nyk

Ricky Ledo

SG 6-foot-6 197 lbs Providence 20 Years Old

Ledo is a lottery talent who didn’t play last year because of academic reasons. He could be Brandon Jennings or he could be point guard Jeremy Tyler. I’m guessing New York is willing to take the risk on this scoring guard.

25

lac

Reggie Bullock

SF 6-foot-7 200 lbs North Carolina 22 Years Old

We know this pick isn’t going to Boston because any trade between the two teams will be vetoed by the Almighty David Stern. While they could use some size, Gorgui Dieng is too like DeAndre Jordan, and Rudy Gobert is too raw. I have them taking the best three-and-D player on the board.

26

Gorgui Dieng

C 6-foot-11 230 lbs Louisville 23 Years Old

With Nikola Pekovic a pending free agent, the Wolves will need to add a big after they add a shooter. Dieng is a steal this late–even though I don’t like his long-term potential since he’s already 23 and has no offense of which to speak.

27

den

Tim Hardaway Jr.

SG 6-foot-6 199 lbs Michigan 21 Years Old

Even after Andre Iguodala (probably) leaves, the Nuggets don’t really have a need beyond a superstar. They have too many “pretty good” players. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos, Andre Miller, Evan Fourier… don’t be surprised if they try to trade this pick.

28

sas

Rudy Gobert

C 7-foot-2 238 lbs France 20 Years Old

Gobert strikes as a guy we’ll make fun of if Minnesota drafts him and and laud if San Antonio drafts him.

29

Alex Abrines

SG 6-foot-5 195 lbs Spain 20 Years Old

Like I said earlier, the Thunder don’t really much. So I have them taking the top remaining international player to stash for a few years.

30

Glen Rice Jr.

SG 6-foot-6 211 lbs NBADL 22 Years Old

If the Suns go big with their first pick, they’re going small with their next pick. And why not go with a third Junior, right? Apparently Isaiah Canaan is getting a long look here, too.

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