The Hawks are on track to have as many as three first-round picks in the 2018 draft. Their own pick is almost certain to be in the lottery. The Hawks also own a pick via the Rockets and will have a third first-round pick if the Timberwolves quality for the playoffs.
This is the eight of my occasional reports on prospects expected to be selected in the first round of the draft.
- Trae Young, Oklahoma
- DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
- Grayson Allen, Duke
- Wendell Carter Jr., Duke
- Marvin Bagley III, Duke
- Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (Fla.)
- Lonnie Walker, Miami (Fla.)
Kerwin Roach II
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Height/weight: 6-4, 180 (listed)
Age: 21 (Oct. 24.,1996)
ESPN draft projection: N/A
AUSTIN, Tex. - I went to Texas with the intention of seeing center Mohamed Bamba, who is expected to be among the top selections in the draft. But Bamba was out with an injury for the Longhorns’ upset victory over West Virginia on Saturday so I had to settle for a talk with coach Shaka Smart about Bamba (more on that in a later post). I also checked out Texas junior combo guard prospect Kerwin Roach II.
Roach played a solid game against West Virginia with 22 points on 15 shots (8-for-10 on free throws), eight assists, five turnovers and two blocked shots. He probably will get an NBA look based on his athleticism alone. He won back-to-back 5-A state championships in the triple jump during his final two years at Houston’s North Shore High. Roach’s athleticism translates to solid production on steals, a high free-throw attempt rate overall, a high foul-drawing rate on transition plays and a very good field-goal percentage on 77 shots around the basket this season (58.4 per Synergy Sports).
Roach has a very good first step and his explosive leaping ability allows him to make plays like these:
It takes more than athleticism to make it in the NBA, and Roach improved his draft stock by developing as a secondary ball-handler. It’s a role he inherited when current G League guard Javan Felix and current Hawks point guard Isaiah Taylor left Austin for the pros. He’s done it even more late this season because Texas guard Andrew Jones was diagnosed with leukemia in January and is undergoing treatment.
Roach has continued to be produce as a play-maker this season though his turnover rate remains high (20.1 per Kenpom.com). Roach also has improved his shooting: 51.6 effective field-goal percentage, including 37 for 106 on 3-pointers (34.9 percent), while scoring 15.1 points per 40 minutes. Synergy credits Roach with an effective-field goal percentage of 58 on 99 spot-up possessions. But Roach’s poor free-throw shooting over three college seasons (64.4) is a potential red flag because that stat correlates with NBA 3-point shooting.
Roach has been an efficient scorer as the pick-and-roll ball-handler (69th percentile in points per possession, according to Synergy). But he’s turned the ball over on 21.6 percent of those 116 possessions. If Roach can cut down on the giveaways, he has the potential to be a very good slasher because of his strong finishing.
However, Roach could struggle as an on-ball wing in the NBA because of what I saw as a weak off (left) hand. The defenders at the top of West Virginia’s zone defense shaded Roach to drive left but he seemed reluctant to do so. Roach made one strong drive to his left late in regulation time but switched to his right hand for the shot while floating to his left.
If Roach declares for the draft he may have chance to be selected late in the first round (the most recent NBAdraft.net projection has Roach going No. 34 overall). Roach doesn’t appear to have good length and he has a thin build so he’s probably more of a combo guard than a small forward. But he has elite athleticism and his improved shooting and play-making potential may be enough for an NBA team to take a chance on him.
“He’s come a long way,” Smart said. “He still has room for growth. His competitive character has gotten better and better. The way he’s responded to adversity or people coming at him, he’s gotten way better at that.”
The Hawks’ roster could change through the summer but they are heavy on wing prospects right now. They selected Tyler Dorsey in the second round of last year’s draft and he’s developed nicely as a rotation player behind Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince.
The Hawks also plan to sign Antonius Cleveland to a deal for next season once his second 10-day expires. And they have Jaylen Morris on a 10-day deal and Andrew White on a two-way contract.