published Friday, June 29th, 2012

Mark Wiedmer: Is Jenkins best answer for Hawks?

For anyone who's painfully watched Josh Smith and a host of other Atlanta Hawks brick 3-pointers through the years inside Philips Arena, the franchise using the 23rd pick of Thursday night's NBA draft on Vanderbilt sharpshooter John Jenkins certainly makes sense.

Blessed with far better slashers than shooters, the Hawks desperately need Jenkins' jumper to help point guard Jeff Teague spread defenses and open the court for Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Smith.

And as ESPN's Jay Bilas noted, "John Jenkins is the best shooter in this draft."

But a question of equal importance is whether Jenkins can guard well enough and handle the ball well enough to be on the court enough to make this pick a good one rather than an OK one. Especially when surrounded by teammates who don't always look to find open teammates.

For instance, drafting two spots later, Memphis took Washington's Tony Wroten Jr., a far superior athlete who lacks Jenkins' otherworldly shooting skills but was the Pac-12 freshman of the year and could also give Teague some help at point. Think a slightly less polished Tyreke Evans and you've got Wroten.

Yet with the exception of overall No. 1 pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky going to New Orleans, this draft was always much more about quantity than quality, as many as 50 players capable of one day making a noticeable impact.

Or as Bilas also noted, "If you take a guy at [No.] 15 that was rated 22nd, what difference does it make if you like him? A lot of these guys are pretty much the same."

So what did we learn from this draft? We learned -- as if we didn't already know it -- that the Southeastern Conference had some outstanding talent this year.

The top three picks -- Davis, UK teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Charlotte and Florida's Bradley Beal to Washington -- were all from the league, which hadn't happened since 1986, when the ACC watched North Carolina's Brad Daugherty, Maryland's Len Bias and N.C. State's Chris Washburn go Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

Given that Bias died of a cocaine overdose less than two days after that draft and drug troubles eventually ran Washburn out of the league, this year's eight total SEC first-round picks -- the most of any conference -- can only hope their careers and lives turn out far better.

We also learned that patience doesn't always pay when it comes to freshmen becoming sophomores. Both North Carolina's Harrison Barnes and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger may well have been among the first five picks in last year's draft had they left after their freshman seasons.

Returning as sophomores in hopes of winning a national championship as well as possibly improving their draft stock, Barnes went seventh to Golden State and Sullinger fell to the Boston Celtics with the 21st pick.

Another perspective on returning as a sophomore to improve your draft status: Only one of the four sophomores who turned their backs on being probable lottery picks in last year's draft was invited by the NBA to Thursday night's draft: UNC's Barnes.

The other three all wound up in the first round -- Kentucky's Terrence Jones at No. 18 to Houston, Sullinger at No. 21 and Baylor's Perry Jones III to Oklahoma City at No. 28. Jones wouldn't have gone much higher last season and he did win a national title, but Sullinger and Jones cost themselves millions of dollars by returning.

Let's also briefly address ESPN's desire to keep a scoreboard graphic comparing UNC's and UK's first-round draft choices, especially when the Tar Heels briefly led 4-2

Yes, UNC had four of the first 17 to UK's three in the first 18, but it could also be argued that UK did more with its players than the Tar Heels did with theirs, since Big Blue whipped Baby Blue in the 2011 East Regional final and won it all this past spring.

That said, that UK infomercial that Cats coach John Calipari had shamelessly trumpeted in the past about draft night being bigger than national championships kind of fell short this time.

Yes, Cal's Cats ultimately ended up with four players drafted in the opening round, same as the Tar Heels. And he did just win the school's eighth national title

But sophomore guard Doron Lamb, who almost certainly would have been chosen in the first round next year had he returned to UK, fell to Milwaukee at No. 42.

Then again, Cal did wind up with six players drafted in the two rounds, which never previously has been done by a single school.

And he did produce the lone sure thing in this draft in Davis, of whom Bilas said, "He's got great hands, he keeps his mouth shut and plays hard all the time."

If that philosophy trickles down to all those drafted behind him, the NBA could become better than ever.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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