The Atlanta Hawks continued their draft preparation Wednesday when they brought in six more college prospects for workouts. Memphis G Will Barton (6-foot-6, 175-pounds), Ohio State G William Buford (6-foot-6, 220-pounds), Campbell F Eric Griffin (6-foot-8, 190-pounds), Texas A&M F Khris Middleton (6-foot-7, 217-pounds), Vanderbilt G/F Jeffrey Taylor (6-foot-7, 225-pounds) and Georgetown F Hollis Thompson (6-foot-8, 212-pounds) all participated in the workout. Much like the other prospects that have come in this week, this group was filled with long, athletic wingmen.
Taylor and Barton were the most impressive at the workout, showing off their skills at both ends of the floor. Taylor is one of the most polished players in the draft and the four-year Vandy standout is the best on-ball, perimeter defender the Hawks have brought in. Taylor has drawn comparisons to Thabo Sefolosha of the Oklahoma City Thunder with his defensive prowess and perimeter-shooting ability. Taylor acknowledges the comparisons to Sefolosha, and embraces the idea of being a premier defender in the league.
“If you look at Sefolosha in the playoffs he’s playing tremendous defense and making a lot of key plays for them, so having a great wing defender is really important,” said Taylor
Taylor explained that his defensive play can be attributed to a tough defensive mentality given to him by his father Jeff Taylor, who played briefly in the NBA before a long career in Sweden.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing,” said Taylor. “A lot of players these days don’t really value defense, they’re all about scoring and making the highlight plays. My dad always instilled in me a defensive mentality and to be prideful. Part of having pride is not letting someone score on you.”
As to where he thinks he could fit in with the Hawks, Taylor explained that his talents are versatile, something greatly valued by Larry Drew and the Hawks.
“I think I can definitely help at the two or the three, knock down shots, be able to get to the basket and definitely play defense,” said Taylor. “I’ll play really good defense on whoever I’m guarding.”
Barton, while only 175-pounds, showed his toughness and strength throughout his Memphis career, averaging 6.5 rebounds per game to go along with his 15.2 points per game. Barton has to face questions about his size, especially because he is best going towards the basket. Though he shows no fear in the lane, he must add on weight to be a quality, slashing two-guard in the NBA.
Barton explained that his rebounding skills come from desire and the will to get the ball.
“You don’t have to be big to rebound,” revealed Barton. “Rebounding is something you have to want to do and have a knack for getting to the ball.”
Adding weight and building up his strength and stamina are a top priority for Barton as he transitions into the NBA.
“It’s tough to put on weight,” said Barton. “I eat a lot, I lift weights and do pushups. You can tell that I’m [making gains in strength]. I mean, I get after it and I live in the paint.”
VANDY SHOWS OUT …
So far the Vanderbilt contingent at these Hawks workouts has been quite impressive with John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor both impressing during their sessions. Center Festus Ezeli will come in on Saturday for a workout and will hope to continue the good Commodore showing in Atlanta. Jenkins showed off his shooting range and skill on Sunday, making an incredible percentage of his jump-shots. He didn’t miss one during the portion the media was allowed to watch. Taylor can also provide range but his primary attribute comes on the defensive side of the ball.
Either of them would help add depth, skill and some much-needed youth to what has been an older bench made up of mostly veteran minimums for the past few years. Taylor’s overall package is better so he’s more likely to go late in the first-round or early in the second, while Jenkins as a spot-up shooter will slip toward the mid-to-late second-round. It’s possible to see the Hawks take multiple Commodores in this draft.
LOOKING AHEAD …
Thursday’s workout will feature the first two true big-men that the Hawks will be bringing in as Duke PF Miles Plumlee (6-foot-11, 225-pounds) and Wichita State C Garrett Stutz (7-feet, 255-pounds) will be coming to Philips. Stutz was in early today and was participating in shooting drills after the scheduled workout was completed and his size and range were quite impressive. The Shocker center showed off his range, knocking down three-pointers and outside jumpers with ease, all while playing at a legitimate 7-feet tall.
While the first three Hawks workouts have featured almost exclusively wing players, the next few sessions will feature more centers and true power forwards, something the Hawks need to add depth in.