Have Hawks hit NBA jackpot when drafting in lottery?

A look back at some of the franchise’s selections when picking at or near top of draft board
Al Horford was selected by the Hawks with the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft.

Credit: AJC file photo/Curtis Compton

Credit: AJC file photo/Curtis Compton

Al Horford was selected by the Hawks with the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft.

Al Horford was selected by the Hawks with the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft.

He spent nine seasons in Atlanta and was known as a relentless player on the court and relentless in his quest to find metro Atlanta’s best Dominican restaurants off the court. After 17 NBA seasons, Horford finally won an NBA title, and it wasn’t with the franchise that drafted him – a franchise that hasn’t won a title in since it was in St. Louis in 1958.

He won as a member of the Boston Celtics.

Horford’s tale is one of many for players selected high in the NBA draft each year. And with the Hawks on the clock with this first pick in the 2024 draft (June 26-27), here are a few questions facing the franchise:

-Will their draftee have a long-term impact similar to Horford, who still ranks in the top 10 of franchise leaders in four major categories?

-Will the player create league-wide excitement similar to metro Atlanta native Anthony Edwards and Victor Wembanyama, the top picks in 2020 and 2023?

-Or will the player become Anthony Bennett (who was out of the league four years after being selected No. 1 overall in 2013) or Markelle Fultz (the top pick in 2017 who was traded two years later)?

The last No. 1 overall pick by the franchise – David Thompson of N.C. State in 1975 – never played a minute for the team. And its last No. 2 pick was Marvin Williams, who played seven of his 15 NBA seasons in Atlanta but was selected ahead of All-Star and Olympic team point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

Trae Young (wearing a Dallas Mavericks cap) on draft night in 2018 with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Young was part of a draft-night trade which ultimately landed him in Atlanta.

Credit: Mike Stobe

icon to expand image

Credit: Mike Stobe

So there’s major uncertainty heading into the draft, and here’s a look back at some of the franchise’s high selectees over the years:

**-There’s been an element of intrigue involving the Hawks and the third overall pick over the years. The Luka Doncic/Trae Young draft night swap in 2018 involving the pick has been well-documented, and in 2001 the Hawks selected Pau Gasol No. 3 overall and immediately included him in a draft-night trade with Vancouver that brought former Mr. Georgia Basketball Shareef Abdur-Rahim back home.

The most accomplished player in franchise history – Dominique Wilkins – was the No. 3 pick in the 1982 draft.

By the Utah Jazz. Yes, that’s correct.

But the Human Highlight Film eventually would begin his NBA career much closer to his collegiate stomping ground in Athens after the Hawks acquired him in a trade three months after the draft.

**-Young was one of two lottery picks among the starters for the Hawks in the season-ending loss to the Bulls in the NBA play-in tournament. In fact, all five starters were first-round draft picks.

But none were drafted by the franchise.

Young and De’Andre Hunter (the No. 4 pick by the Lakers in 2019 who was included in a three-team trade and landed in Atlanta) started alongside Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanović in the 131-116 loss in Chicago. Murray was the 29th pick in 2016 by the Spurs, Capela was the 25th pick in 2014 by the Rockets and Bogdanović was selected two slots after Capela at No. 27 by the Suns.

**-Hawks GM Landry Fields said the team likely will keep the No. 1 overall pick and make the first selection June 26. Fields, from Stanford, was the 39th overall pick in 2010 – fourteen slots ahead of Hawks’ second-round selection at No. 53 of Pape Sy, a 6-7 forward from France who played in only three NBA games.

The Hawks selected Damion James with the No. 24 overall pick in the first round in 2010 (James never played a regular-season minute for the Hawks), and the draft’s top pick was Kentucky guard John Wall, who has averaged 18.9 points in 11 NBA seasons.

*-Williams, the 6-foot-8 athletic wingman from North Carolina was selected after Andrew Bogut at the top of the 2005 draft. Two picks later, New Orleans selected Chris Paul, who just completed his 19th NBA season.

**-The franchise went the Williams route again in 2006, selecting Duke’s Shelden Williams sixth overall. But the rugged forward nicknamed The Landlord maintained his residence in Atlanta for only a year and a half and was out of the league by 2012.

Many pro basketball fans likely remember Williams because of his ex-wife – WNBA legend and TV personality Candace Parker.

**-In 2004, the Hawks selected Josh Childress of Stanford with the sixth overall pick and 11 slots later selected prep-to-pro prospect Josh Smith, who would eventually provide thrills – and a few headaches – during his nine seasons in Atlanta.