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The LB NBA Mock Draft: Atlanta Hawks Select James Young No. 15 Overall

With the 15th pick in the Risibly Erroneous Liberty Ballers Mock Draft, the Hawks pick the best player available, who also fills a need.

James Young likes this pick.
James Young likes this pick.
Jamie Squire

In the interest of full disclosure, I probably know less about the Atlanta Hawks than any other team in the league. It's not that I dislike them or anything--in fact, I don't know why they're such a blind spot for me, but they are, and that's who I got assigned, so here we are. The advantage to my ignorance is that I went into this with an open mind.

This late in the draft, you're starting to draft for need. At No. 15, you're not worried about passing on Michael Jordan because you've already got Clyde Drexler, you know? You're still interested in getting the best player, of course, but once you get outside the lottery, the concept of "best player available" gets hazy and you can use need as a tiebreaker.

What stands out to me about last year's Hawks is how okay they were. They were 15th in points scored, 15th in points allowed. Eighteenth in offensive efficiency, 14th in defensive efficiency, 13th in pace, 13th in field goal percentage, 13th in three-point percentage. They got out of that middle third in three-point attempts (second), assists (second), steals (ninth) and rebounding (28th).

Look down the lineup and you'll see something similar: a solid, if slightly undersized lineup that's short on both outright liabilities and stars. Jeff Teague's a good point guard, and Paul Millsap and Al Horford make for a very skilled, if undersized, post duo. But once you go past them and through the pile of former Sixers they've accumulated, you'll notice something interesting.

Kyle Korver led this team in minutes per game last year.

Korver's always been a great shooter, but here's the problem with playing him 34 minutes a night. When I was in high school, I remember watching a Sixers game on TV and whoever was doing the halftime show broke down tape of the defensive set the Sixers were getting killed on. Whoever the Sixers were playing gave the ball to a wing and iso'd him against Korver. It wasn't, like, Kobe Bryant either--it was some mediocre two-guard like Jarvis Hayes or something. And he just gobbled Korver up like it was Moe's Monday and Korver was the five-dollar Homewrecker burrito.

Korver's like the artillery units in Civ V--they're great if you're on the attack, but they're slow and they take two moves to shoot and they're useless on defense. You need a defensive caddy for Korver at the very least, and ideally a replacement who can pick up most of Korver's scoring and floor-spacing duties on offense while not killing you on defense. The Hawks could use a fourth big, since Millsap's short, Horford's always hurt and Pero Antic is always in foul trouble, but this is the more pressing issue.

Enter James Young, Kentucky's 6-foot-7 small forward. Young has the length and stamina to defend his position competently, and more than that, he's a streaky hot shooter who could turn into a stud if his offensive game becomes more consistent. Ordinarily, I roll my eyes at that kind of sentence, because it's the kind of thing you say when you're trying to talk yourself into a raw talent figuring things out at the NBA level. But Young's different for two reasons: first, he's not actually all that raw, and second, he's a freshman with a late birthday, which means not only can you count on him to improve his skills under a professional coaching and conditioning regime, it also means he's still got some maturation coming physically.

Once I settled on a small forward, it came down to Young and Cleanthony Early of Wichita State. Both of those guys are beloved around here, but I went with Young because of his better physical potential and offensive game. If I just wanted an eighth-inning defensive replacement for Korver, I'd have taken Early, but at No. 15, it's worth taking a shot on a guy who can become a starter.

Because I know so little about the Hawks, I reached out to Kris Willis of Peachtree Hoops, the SBN blog for the Fulton County Flappers, for a second opinion:

I like Young and he has been a prospect that we have discussed internally a lot. I'm not sure he will be available at No. 15 but I would be happy if he is. Good shooter with plenty of potential.

And compared to Early or a big man?

I think you are on the right track. A lot of people say the Hawks need a center but they really need size/help on the wing.

So there you have it. Immediate help for a playoff team, some projectability for the future and the blessing of a Hawks blogger. James Young at No. 15 is the way to go.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid
2. Milwaukee Bucks - Andrew Wiggins
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker
4. Orlando Magic - Dante Exum
5. Utah Jazz - Noah Vonleh
6. Boston Celtics - Aaron Gordon
7. Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle
8. Sacramento Kings - Marcus Smart
9. Charlotte Hornets - Nik Stauskas
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Gary Harris
11. Denver NuggetsZach LaVine
12. Orlando Magic - Dario Saric
13. Minnesota TimberwolvesKyle Anderson
14. Phoenix Suns - Doug McDermott
15. Atlanta Hawks - James Young
16. Chicago Bulls

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