With the 2016 NBA Draft tomorrow, the Atlanta Hawks are looking to make a big splash with either the 12th or 21st pick. There’s one position that’s been a huge concern for Atlanta and is a critical element for the franchise if they are trying to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference, a center. Addressing the lack of depth at center has caused problems for the Hawks since Al Horford’s rookie season. Although the Hawks have made a lot of progress as a team, their issues in the paint and rebounding have lingered for years. Considering the impact Al Horford made during his tenure in Atlanta including making multiple All Star appearances, many would ask why would the Hawks want a center when we can stretch the floor with Horford? Here’s why!
Since Horford entered the NBA, he was an undersized center and many thought he should have been moved to the power forward position. Now, approaching the end of his prime, a philosophy change would be beneficial for the Hawks. In my opinon, if the Hawks decide to retain Al Horford, they should him to power forward amd possibly consider drafting a center with one of your two first round selections. One of the prospects that I would consider resembles his game similar to Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson but with an slightly better offensive game would be Damian Jones from Vanderbilt.
|Damian Jones in his AAU days|
Damian Jones, a 7’0 tall and 250 pound center, was a monster in the paint during his Commodore days regardless of who he went up against whether it was SEC talent or other opposing frontcourts in the NCAA. Jones could be everything Coach Bud and the Hawks could use in the paint and more as he mature on the next level. The sky is the absolute limit for a young man with his size and talent. Jones forgoed his Senior season and declared for the NBA Draft. He’s from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; don’t ask me how LSU let this guy out of their back yard. Imagine Ben Simmons and this guy on the same court wearing the same uniform. Scary, isn’t it? During his High School days, Jones averaged (16) points per game, (8)rebounds per game, and (4) blocks per game as well; Jones would lead his school to back to back state championships as well as earning the 5A Player of the Year Honors in Louisiana.
|Damian Jones earned a Sportscenter Dunk his freshman year|
As a Freshman at Vanderbilt, Jones was selected to the freshman All SEC Team after posting an average of (11) points per game and (5) rebounds per game. Jones posted five double-doubles in his first season and was selected as SEC Player of the Week when he averaged (17) points per game and (7) rebounds per game against Auburn and Missouri. Jones became one of the best centers in the SEC during sophomore campaign as he averaged (15) points per game and (6) rebounds per game. Jones was voted a first-team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches. He also led the SEC in field goal percentage (56.2%), finished 10th in scoring, and third in blocks, posting double-figure points in 28 games.
Entering his junior year, Jones and Vanderbilt’s basketball team had high expectations, unfortunately the season was well below expectations; however, Jones was one of the bright spots of the team.He started every game this season, averaging (14) points per game and (7) rebounds per game. Jones was named 1st Team All-SEC by the coaches for the second time in his career. Jones also scored in double figures in 26 of his 33 games played and posted 7 double-doubles; while being named SEC Player of the Week on Feb. 29 after averaging (21) points per game and (7.5) rebounds per game in two wins over Florida and Kentucky. Below are some of the honors Damian Jones accumulated during his career at Vandy.
• 2015-16 Winter SEC Academic Honor Roll
• 2015-16 All-SEC First Team (Coaches)
• 2015-16 All-SEC Second Team (AP)
• 2014-15 Winter SEC Academic Honor Roll
• 2014-15 All-SEC First Team
• 2014-15 All-SEC Defensive Team
• 2014-15 Kareem Abdul Jabbar Award Finalist
• 2013-14 SEC All-Freshman Team
In my opinion, Jones style of play is loaded with the potential to become a lethal offensive
weapon as he’ll work on his mid-range jumper and including the other intangibles such as his fantastic help defense thanks to his length, he could develop into a perennial All Star player with the lack of true centers in the NBA. Jones is a high-character guy with a hard work mentality both on and off the court. He would be a great locker room guy for the Hawks. Jones, like other NBA Draft prospects, have room to improve his game.
Sustaining a high level of intensity and focus during in-game situations is his biggest obstacle, he sometimes can be inconsistent when it comes to playing at a high level for 48 minutes like players such as Golden State’s power forward Draymond Green. If Jones expects to be great in the NBA, that’s a skill he would need to develop during Training Camp and his professional career. His success will depend on the right team and coaches that will help build his confidence and get the most out of Jones as a center. Damian Jones is the perfect fit for the Hawks and what we’re building in Atlanta; if we’re able to land him, he could be the biggest steal in the draft.
Michael Thomas (@ChosenOne_MT10)