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Grading Atlanta Hawks' 2013 NBA Draft Decisions

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Grading Atlanta Hawks' 2013 NBA Draft Decisions
Atlanta Hawks draftees (left-to-right): Lucas Nogueira, Dennis Schroeder and Mike Muscala. [Photo credit: Lauren Arum]

The Atlanta Hawks came out of the 2013 NBA draft with a trio of promising young players.

We will take a look at the moves that the Hawks made in the draft and assess a grade based on the players' quality and the team's execution.

When Atlanta hired GM Danny Ferry and, subsequently, new head coach Mike Budenholzer, the prevailing thought was that they were on track to become the San Antonio Spurs of the East.

With the 2013 NBA draft now in the rearview mirror, it is easier to make that assertion.

Why?

If you don't already know, that answer will come as we work our way through Atlanta's selections.

The Hawks entered the draft with 11 openings remaining on their roster.

The first step to filling out the roster took place in last week's draft. Ferry entered the draft with four draft picks at his disposal, and came away from it with quality players.

Thus we begin our assessment.

 

Round 1:  Draft Day Trading (part 1)

Having the No. 17 and 18 picks entering the first round of the NBA draft, the Hawks were looking to acquire the best available talent.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Whether he chooses to come home to Atlanta or not, Dwight Howard's free agency has had a positive impact on the Hawks in the draft.

The Dallas Mavericks, looking to shed salary for their eventual run at superstar free agent Dwight Howard, helped facilitate that desire.

Dallas traded the rights to center Kelly Olynyk (selected 13th overall) to the Boston Celtics for the rights to the 16th pick and two future second-rounders.

The Celtics then selected Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira with the 16th pick for Dallas.

To save more salary cap space, the Mavs sent the rights to Nogueira as well as last year's 24th pick, shooting guard Jared Cunningham, and a second round pick (No. 44) to Atlanta in exchange for the 18th pick (Miami point guard Shane Larkin).

The Hawks followed up the acquisition of Nogueira and Cunningham by selecting German point guard Dennis Schroeder with the 17th pick.

With the same skill demonstrated in shedding the contracts of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams a year ago, Ferry obtained two first-round talents and one second-rounder for the price of one pick.

First Round Execution:  A+

 

No. 16 - Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira, Center

While it is still unknown when Nogueira will report stateside to join the Hawks, he projects as a quality talent due to his size and athleticism.

Standing at 7'0" with a 9'6" standing reach, he has great size and length. He is, however, in desperate need of bulking up. At 220 pounds, he could stand to gain a good 25 to 30 pounds of muscle if he has any intentions of posting up near the basket.

Scouting reports paint the picture that his offense is relatively anemic, though he has a penchant for grabbing offensive rebounds. DraftExpress says that he "does not possess the lower body strength needed to establish position in the post, and generally isn't a threat to score outside of five feet."

Defensively, he has great potential as a shot-blocker, but needs to improve his rebounding. He sometimes fails to box out, and he shows "average instincts" when chasing loose balls.

Statistically, ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton rates Nogueira as the seventh best player with a win percentage of 47.4 and a WARP metric rating of 2.4.

Already 21 years old, one has to wonder how soon Atlanta's staff will be able to have him ready to compete at the highest level.

Grade:  B-

 

Trade - Jared Cunningham, Shooting Guard

 

Cunningham was a solid talent coming out of college in Oregon State. However, he was not given much opportunity to play in his rookie season.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Mavericks reserve shooting guard Jared Cunningham joins the Atlanta Hawks.

He played a mere 26 minutes for the Mavericks last season. If extrapolated out, however, he averaged a per 36 minutes total of 22 points, four rebounds and 2.8 three-point makes.

He did play in 15 D-League games, where he averaged 34 minutes, 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal.

He will need more time to further develop his game—especially his jump shot.

His addition to the team, however, was a steal. Unless GM Ferry and Coach Budenholzer decide that he needs more time in the D-League, he should add quality depth to the roster this season.

Grade:  C+

 

No. 17 - Dennis Schroeder, Point Guard

Like Nogueira, Schroeder may not be able to join the Hawks immediately due to his foreign commitments.

At 6'2", he has average height for an NBA point guard. However, he has excellent length—with a wingspan of 6'7.75'' and a standing reach of 8'2".

His length and quickness should, with work, lend themselves to him blossoming as a defensive stopper.

Schroeder is a great facilitator. He is excellent at pick-and-roll offense and displays impressive passing ability. His jump shot was stellar—based on a limited sample size—in catch-and-shoot situations, where he completed 52.6 percent of his shots

He had the opportunity to demonstrate his talent against next year's top draft prospects in the Nike Hoops Summit, where he garnered 18 points and six assists.

Unfortunately, he still has plenty of room to grow. His transition offense—which includes a field goal percentage of only 44 percent and a turnover rate of 27.3 percent—has been abysmal while playing for Braunschweig in Germany. 

He may not join the Hawks this summer, but if he is able to, he could contribute right away.

Grade: B+

 

Round 2:  Draft Day Trading (part 2)

While both Nogueira and Shroeder still have loose ends to take care of before they can join the Hawks, Atlanta's second-rounder (via the 44th pick acquired from Dallas) is ready for action.

 

 

Atlanta selected senior big man Mike Muscala from Bucknell with pick No. 44.

With their own 47th pick, Danny Ferry and the Hawks selected Brazilian point guard Raul Neto. He was later traded to the Utah Jazz for the rights to the Brooklyn Nets' 2015 second round pick.

James Ennis was selected with the 50th pick in the draft and swiftly traded to the Miami Heat.

 

 

Muscala was a solid pick that should fill a roll on the depth chart right away.

However, Neto and Ennis are both alluring talents with a lot of potential and upside. Giving them away to contending teams within the Eastern Conference for future (likely less valuable) second-round picks left some scratching their heads.

Second Round Execution:  B-

 

No. 44 Mike Muscala, Power Forward

Muscala ranks 21st among incoming prospects on Pelton's WARP ratings. After four seasons in college, he is as polished as they come. That should qualify him as a steal at 44.

What he lacks in size, strength and athleticism, he overwhelmingly makes up for with skill.

He was second in PER (player efficiency rating) among all players in the NCAA this past season. He led all participating players at the NBA draft combine with a 76 percent shooting display.

ESPN's draft analysis spoke very highly of him.

His skill set both around the basket (with an impressive jump hook) and facing the basket (especially from mid-range out to the college 3-point line) was terrific. He has perfect form on his jump shot and a nice touch....

What concerns teams -- a little -- is Muscala's lack of strength in the post. He has a thin frame, isn't an elite athlete and isn't particularly long. However, he's so skilled, both around the basket and on the perimeter, that teams may try to make him a face-the-basket 4 at the next level. 

If the Hawks are unable to acquire a true center to allow Al Horford to slide into his natural position at the 4, Muscala may find a home playing power forward next to him.

Otherwise, expect him to provide quality minutes off the bench in relief of Horford.

Grade:  A

 

Atlanta had a very strong draft.

So, why are the Hawks on pace to be the Spurs of the East?

Between Lucas Nogueira, Dennis Schroeder and even Raul Neto, whom they eventually traded, GM Ferry and his staff have shown a commitment to scouting quality international talent.

If they can manage building a championship contending team with potential international star players and polished role players from smaller universities, no one in Atlanta will complain.

Atlanta is long overdue a championship worthy team. Here's hoping the Hawks can become one.

Overall Grade:  B

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