Atlanta Hawks NBA Draft Target: Tyler Ulis

Ulis dishes a nice assist against Duke


 The Atlanta Hawks are looking to make upgrades via Free Agency this off-season, but before the frenzy begins, the 2016 NBA Draft is the first place where the Hawks will look to add talent. During the off-season, there has been rumors spreading from media outlets such as ESPN and Fox Sports that one of the two Atlanta point guards will be moved this offseason. Since the point guard trade rumors are increasing, this could be time for the franchise to look for another option and there’s a  potential replacement could very well be a big time fit in Coach Mike Budenholzer’s system coming from a big time university, Tyler Ulis.


Tyler Ulis during his Marian days

Tyler Ulis,  the former 5’10, 150 pounds point guard for the vaunted Kentucky Wildcats, enjoyed immense success over his two years in Lexington. However, Ulis biggest question is how will his prolific college game translate to the NBA as he enters the league shorter than a majority of the average guards around the league.Height is an issue Ulis has dealt with since his junior year in high school when he was overlooked until well into the recruiting process for top basketball schools. He was not highly recruited until his 2013–14 senior year of high school. Among schools regarded as high-major programs, only Iowa and DePaul made him offers during his junior year. After a solid junior year, other major programs and in September 2013, he committed to the University of Kentucky.

Tyler Ulis against Ole Miss

In his somphomore year at Kentucky, Ulis entered the season with high expectations from many basketball experts, he was a selection to the 20-man Bob Cousy Award preseason watchlist and the 30-man Lute Olson Award preseason watchlist. He was also a 2015–16 Southeastern Conference pre-season first team All-conference selection by the media. In pre-season top 100 player rankings, Ulis was ranked 5th by ESPN and 22nd by NBC Sports. SB Nation selected Ulis as one of its 10 most important college basketball players for 2015-16. He made the initial 50-man John R. Wooden Award watch list and opened the season in the starting lineup. Ulis had a tremendous second season, one of the highlight games of the season for the point guard came in Kentucky’s 2015–16 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball season opener against the Ole Miss Rebels on January 2, Ulis posted 20 points and 10 assists. The game marked Ulis’ first collegiate double-double and Kentucky’s first 20-point and 10-assist performance since John Wall posted one on November 21, 2009. After a great second season, Ulis earned:

  • Consensus first-team All-American
  • Bob Cousy Award
  • SEC Player of the Year
  • SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2016)
  • First-team All-SEC (2016)


Tyler Ulis in the SEC Championship Game

Ulis honors made him the first Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year winner in school history,
Just the second player in league history (Anthony Davis being the other) to win SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. Ulis averaged (17.3) points per game, (7.0) assists per game, (3.0) rebounds per game, and (1.5) steals per game. He set the new UK single-season assist mark with 246 dime, led the SEC in both assists per game (7.0) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.6), ranking in the top 10 nationally in both categories. He would also earn SEC Tournament MVP after averaging 24.0 points and 5.0 assists in three games in Nashville while leading UK to an SEC Tournament championship
. Overall, his numbers as a whole spring boarded him into National Player of Year conversation. Ulis posted some memorable games this past season at Kentucky, one of his biggest arguably came against in-state rival, the Louisville Cardinals. After losing the previous contest, Ulis seemingly took over at will and posted gaudy numbers. He finished the game with 21 points on 11 shots attempted,  dishing out (8) assists, and only committing one turnover in the game against the top-ranked Louisville Cardinals.


Tyler Ulis dishing an assist to Willie Cauley-Stein

Here’s my perspecive on why Ulis would be a great fit in Atlanta. Ulis does not turn the ball over much at all; you will not play for coach John Calipari at the University of Kentucky as a point guard if you’re a turnover prone player. When you watch him, he’s a floor general and at times, his play is on a much different pace than other players. Ulis has above average body contol when running the offense and his elite ability to find an open shooter or plsce a solid pass in the paint is simply graceful to watch. A very interesting stat about the prospect was one that can be contributed to his ball security. Ulis only turned the ball over on (11%) of his possessions last year, which is amazing when you compare this to the national average (23%). The role Ulis would have for the Hawks next season would be simple, come off the bench and contribute minutes as a backup point guard, dish out dimes and play the elite defense that earned him the Defensive Player of the Year award during his collegiate days. 

Tyler Ulis hits a floater against Louisville

My final point on why Tyler Ulis could be a possible pick for the Hawks is due to a similarity to one of the rising point guards in the NBA, Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics. Thomas and Ulis are very familar in their style of play. I’m not saying Ulis could be a player that averages 22 points per game, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he could with progression in the NBA. Ulis doesn’t have the squick lightning release as Thomas but their handles and  dominance while running the court are very similar. Ulis have a very similar floater jump shot like Thomas because their height gives them the benefit of hitting those shots. Ulis developed it during his Wildcat Days and developed as one of his best weapons offensively. Having a floater will certainly be utilized often and early in his NBA career. The Hawks have some key decisions to make with regards to their point guard position, but if you’re looking for a tough, selfless, and most of all a winner. Tyler Ulis is the man for you. 


 Michael Thomas (@ChosenOne_MT10)

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