Five players the Hawks could draft with No. 1 pick

With top spot, Atlanta has the chance to transform franchise
UConn's Donovan Clingan is among five top players being considered by the Hawks after the team landed the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft lottery.  (AP Photo by Jessica Hill)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

UConn's Donovan Clingan is among five top players being considered by the Hawks after the team landed the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft lottery. (AP Photo by Jessica Hill)

Many an NBA franchise has found their championships hopes built or dashed with the first overall draft pick. This year, the Hawks have that team-changing choice after winning the top pick in Sunday’s NBA Draft lottery. Though draft experts have not held the 2024 draft class in high regard, the Hawks don’t buy into it too much. They embrace the opportunity to find a player in this year’s class that could make an impact.

“I think anytime you bring in any player, it’s franchise-altering,” Hawks general manager Landry Fields said Sunday. “It’s all connected. It’s a principle that we live by internally. It’s never just one person or one staff member or one coach. Everyone has a role to play.”

The Hawks have already begun the process of bringing in players for draft workouts. The process does not change it too much now that they’ve pivoted from preparing to pick at No. 10 to No. 1. Fields said the team has done a lot of work this season with several team personnel, including himself, traveling to scout and gather information.

“There will certainly be some altering for sure,” Fields said. “Within every year as draft process, I mean, agents are looking at it and they’re gonna decide kind of the accessibility that you have and whatnot. But the good thing for us is we have strong relationships out there. So wherever we need to go, we’ll be able to go and whoever we need to talk to will be able to talk to.

“And I think for us, we’ve done a ton of work and will continuously do work with more data that comes in. Data will accumulate from the (NBA Draft) Combine and beyond. And, we’ll sit together and figure out what comes next.”

The Draft Combine gives the Hawks the chance to sit, talk and get to know the players on their radar and learn about their value systems.

With the lottery behind them, the Hawks are officially on the clock. Here are five players who they could take.

Alexandre Sarr (C | Perth (Australia) | 7-1, 224 lb | 19 years | 9.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.9 apg)

In Sarr, who was born in Bordeaux France, the Hawks would get a big man who could make an immediate impact on the defensive end. With a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Sarr would add size, something the Hawks lacked last season, to the frontcourt and solid presence to slow down offenses in the paint. He averaged 1.3 blocks per game.

But, the Hawks will have to develop Sarr on the offensive end, though he has shown the ability to finish at the rim. With Hawks looking to find more ways to space the floor, they may not get that from Sarr. He shot under 30% from 3-point range.

Donovan Clingan (C | UConn | 7-2, 280 lb | 20 years | 13 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.5 apg)

Clingan saw an uptick in minutes as a sophomore and helped lead the Huskies to a second consecutive national title. In extended minutes in the rotation, he averaged .7 more blocks per game than his 1.8 as a freshman and like Sarr, he would provide Hawks with some much-needed size in the frontcourt.

He also shows potential as a rim runner and can play through contact, especially on putbacks but some scouts have wondered about his athleticism.

Nikola Topic (G | Crvena Zvezda (Serbia) | 6-6, 200 lb | 18 years | 14.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg)

The Hawks may have a lot of guards on their roster, but they still ran into some depth issues when they lost Trae Young for six weeks toward the end of the season. Plus with questions surrounding the future of Young, or even Dejounte Murray, they’ll need to have their heir apparent ready to go.

Topic averaged 18.4 points and 7.1 assists on loan to Serbian club KK Mega for 13 games from Crvena at the beginning of the season. The Serbian guard has shown scouts he has a high basketball IQ and feel for the game, as well as the ability to make smart defensive plays.

He’s a streaky shooter, though, making just around 30% of his shots from deep and he may not have the speed that would benefit the Hawks’ priority to get out in transition.

Zaccharie Risacher (F | Bourg (France) | 6-9, 200 lb | 19 years | 10.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.9 apg)

The Hawks could use another wing of Risacher’s size in their rotation after trading up to draft big man Mo Gueye last year. Risacher made just over 35.2% of his shots from 3 and his size on the wing could provide them with some disruption on the defensive end.

He has a solid feel for the game and a propensity for making the right cuts or positioning in the right place to knock shots down.

But with a thin frame, some scouts have wondered about his NBA readiness against bigger and stronger opponents. They also worry about his on-ball defensive skills and potential to lose opponents on backdoor cuts.

Reed Sheppard (G | Kentucky | 6-3, 185 lb | 20 years | 12.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.5 apg)

Sheppard turns 20 just days before the draft and could give the Hawks a speedy guard that gets them out front and wreaks havoc in transition. Along with averaging 2.5 steals per game at Kentucky, he showed some efficiency on the offensive end. He shot 53.6% overall and 52.1% from 3.

Some have wondered about his 6-3 frame and with the Hawks looking to add size, he is more of a long-shot prospect.

But he’s an unselfish player, who can create plenty of opportunities for teammates, as well as himself.