2014 NBA Draft: Atlanta Hawks Must Consider Wichita State's Cleanthony Early

By Andrew Shaw
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This might be a bit of a reach depending on where the Atlanta Hawks pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft, but the front office must consider taking Cleanthony Early with their first round pick. This is especially true after watching the Wichita State product perform in the NCAA tournament against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Early put in his best game of the year when it mattered the most and scored a season high 31 points for the Shockers. His effort fell just short in the end, as Wichita State fell 78-76 to the Wildcats, but his impressive showing opened the eyes for a number of NBA scouts. The fact that he almost single-handedly brought his team to victory made many wonder what kind of player he could be in the NBA. Could the 6-foot-8 small forward really be a legitimate starter in the NBA?

Well, I’m here to tell you that not only do I think Early has the potential to be a solid starter in the league, but I truly believe he has the potential to be a star player. He might not come from a college program that is notoriously known for putting out great NBA talent, however, don’t let this fool you. One glance at a highlight film and you can easily see that Early has all the tools in order to be able to succeed in the NBA.

The senior from Wichita State is an excellent shooter from anywhere on the court, and to go along with his 16.4 points per game, he is also a great defender. Given his length at 6-foot-8, Early can guard just about anyone besides the big power forwards and centers of the league. Some small forwards might be able to overpower him due his lack of strength, but for the most part, he should be fine. As good as he is on defense, his offense at the next level is what should shine through.

Early can create his own shot, which is a necessity nowadays in the league in order to be one of the greats. He possesses a turnaround jump shot that can be utilized at any moment to complement a great hook shot as well. His spin move down in the low post is also a very effective tool that he uses from time to time in order to get to the basket, too. All of these things, combined with his outside shooting from the three-point line, make Early look like a potential game-changer for the Hawks.

You can never have enough scorers on the floor, and he would provide Atlanta with a much-needed boost offensively. He might not start right away unless the Hawks make some changes in the offseason, but off the bench, he could potentially be the team’s go-to scorer or sixth man when the starters need a rest. Now, depending on where the Hawks pick he might be a stretch, but I think it’s worth the risk to take chance on Early.

Andrew Shaw is an Atlanta Hawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @AShaw003, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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