Overtime Elite’s Damien Wilkins saw Alexandre Sarr’s No. 1 pick potential early

The NBA logo is shown on the main court at the practice facility in the Brookhaven area, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The NBA logo is shown on the main court at the practice facility in the Brookhaven area, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

When Overtime Elite general manager Damien Wilkins met Alexandre Sarr, he knew that the Frenchman had No. 1 pick potential.

Sarr played two seasons at Overtime Elite, first with Team Overtime and the second with YNG Dreamerz. But in the NBA draft set to take place June 26-27, experts project that a team could select the 19-year-old Frenchman anywhere in the top three. The latest NBA mock drafts project that Sarr could go first overall.

“I told him when I first met him, I tell people this story all the time, that I thought that he had No. 1 pick potential,” Wilkins told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And now to see him being talked about it being the No. 1 pick is really satisfying. He has a game he has all the tools. He’s just overall a great kid, and I think will be an amazing addition to any organization.”

The Hawks won the draft lottery May 12, beating some steep odds to secure the top pick. They had just a 3% chance of winning the lottery, leapfrogging nine other teams that ended the regular season with worse records.

In winning the lottery two weeks ago, the Hawks opened a little more flexibility in their plans for turning the team around. They finished an injury-riddled regular season 36-46 before the Bulls eliminated them in their first game in the Play-In Tournament, failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs for a third consecutive year.

But with the top pick in next month’s draft, the Hawks could try to move down in the draft to recoup future draft assets.

Experts have not rated this year’s draft class as strong as last season’s or next year’s classes. But teams in the draft still can find plenty of gems that could be consistent contributors for year’s to come.

That’s what Wilkins sees when he watches this season’s NBA playoffs.

“I think this draft may not be as sexy or top-loaded as other drafts in the past,” he said. “I think if you’re watching the playoffs right now, what you’re seeing is a lot of guys who weren’t talked about in terms of being high pick. They’re still contributing a great deal right now to their respective team.

“And, I tell guys all the time that the league is full of role players. It’s only about 450 that’s there, there’s probably only about what 10-15 superstars. Everyone else are players just play off of those superstars. And the guys that figured that part out the quickest are guys that have the long value.”

They also could stand pat and take Sarr, who Wilkins said has a versatile skillset.

“I was seeing him for the first time as a recent retiree from the NBA, and you can see the direction that that the NBA was going with having versatile, skilled, long guys,” Wilkins said. “So, in talking to Alex and seeing him, I just I think he fits the bill. He gives you a lot of that (Kristaps) Porzingis, (Victor) Wembanyama type of skills in his game. I think he’s a no-brainer for the No. 1 pick. I think he’s the best player in this draft. I think he has the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft. And it’s just exciting to see him spoken about as a potential No. 1 pick.”

Wilkins also witnessed Sarr’s hunger for the game and readiness to learn.

“He listened,” Wilkins said. “He learned. He asked a lot of questions, was just always in the gym. I think just learning from the Thompson twins (Amen and Ausar, who were drafted No. 4 and No. 5 last year) and competing with them every day, I think it just gave him you know, a sense of security and his confidence grew as the season went on as he got in the weight room and his body started to change for you can just see the ability that he had.”

The Hawks, though, have committed to doing their due diligence, especially now that hold the top pick. Should they stand pat and use that pick to take Sarr, Wilkins said the Frenchman would fit well in coach Quin Snyder’s system.

“I think it’ll help Alex and the Hawks in that, they have a guy who can protect the rim along with Clint (Capela),” Wilkins said. “But also have a guy that can play alongside Clint to stretch the floor a little bit. Create some matchup problems with his size and versatility and then can switch pick and rolls because the game nowadays is heavy pick-and-roll basketball.

“And they take advantage of teams that can’t guard those situations. I think Alex would do a great job with that with whoever the point guard may be ... Trae (Young) or Dejounte (Murray). I think he’ll fit in perfectly.”