SLAMonline Mock Draft: Lance Stephenson, No. 24
Born Ready? We ready.
So, the Atlanta Hawks are on the clock for the 2010 Mock Draft, which means…well, nothing.
For the first time in a while, the Hawks aren’t drafting high enough to fill an immediate need. Even if they don’t keep Joe Johnson, the Hawks aren’t looking for anything in this Draft more than just a back-up capable of playing 5-10 minutes a night, if that.
Worst-case scenario, I think the Hawks will take a big man that’s a project (maybe someone like Hassan Whiteside) and spend a couple of years trying to turn him into another Solomon Jones type, a back-up center who can play a couple of minutes and give you a couple of fouls if need be.
Best-case scenario? That’s tough to say. Besides the aforementioned Solo Jones and Royal Ivey back in 2004, the Hawks historically haven’t had much luck with low-first/second round picks. And as GM in Seattle before coming to Atlanta, Hawks GM Rick Sund’s draft history is underwhelming at best (drafted Mo Sene tenth in 2006, Johan Petro twenty-fifth in 2005, Robert Swift seventeenth in 2004). If anything, it appears that Sund had been willing to try going low-risk/high-reward in the Draft. If the guy pans out, great. If he doesn’t, let him go.
With all that in mind, let’s allow Commissioner Stern to take the podium…
With the 24th pick in the 2010 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select…
Lance Stephenson from the University of Cincinnati.
Seriously? Sure. And why not?
Up until Monday, I was thinking perhaps the Hawks should take a shot at a local kid like Gani Lawal, who could come in and develop and maybe have some impact a year or two from now. And then Ben threw Lance’s name out there, and the more I thought about it, the more I figured, what the heck? What do the Hawks have to lose if Lance doesn’t pan out? Low-risk, high reward.
I covered the 2008 NCAA Final Four down in Atlanta for SLAM, and during that weekend, adidas had a camp for the best high schoolers. My main man Sekou Smith and I swung by the camp one morning just to sit in and watch them practice, and out of all the kids there, the one who immediately stood out to me and Sekou was Lance: big-bodied, smart with the ball, obvious understanding of the game. Watching him play that day, I thought of all the top kids in the Class of 2009, Lance was obviously going to be the best.
But he got in trouble in high school — he eventually ended up pleading guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and received a punishment of three days of community service — and his recruiting process got drawn out because of the court process. Lance didn’t sign with Cincinnati until the end of June, 2009, and people were predicting he’d cause problems or be a headache. But he really didn’t, other than occasionally rolling his eyes or dropping his shoulders when his teammates screwed up. And after just one season at Cincy, Lance declared for the NBA Draft.
I love that Lance has a high basketball IQ and understands the game well enough to do a lot of things (rebound, score, pass). He’s 6-7 and a solid 225, an NBA-ready body. And I really like that Lance has a great midrange game, which would fit in nicely with Atlanta’s second team, with Jamal Crawford bombing away from the outside and Zaza flailing away on the inside.
ESPN.com quotes a scout who saw Lance in the Draft workouts as saying, “As far as guys who just know how to play, he’s it. He’s going to be great in ‘iso’ situations in the league. If all the red flags about him weren’t there, I’m pretty sure this kid’s a lottery pick. He’s going to tempt a lot of people.”
Well, I’m tempted. And if I was running the Hawks, with the 24th pick and not a lot to lose, I’d go for it. And about those red flags: I think it’s also worth considering that Lance has never played for a team where he wasn’t the best player. Let him come to Atlanta and realize that he needs the Hawks a lot more than they need him.
Basically, I say present Lance with a challenge. And I think he just might surprise a lot of people. If he doesn’t, you let him go. But if does, well, that could cause a whole other set of problems. The good kind of problems.
(As I was finishing writing this, just for the heck of it I went and looked at my former nemesis Chad Ford’s latest mock draft. Who does he have the Hawks taking at number 24? Lance Stephenson. Sometimes I can’t win for losing.)