Who could be Hawks’ first-round pick later this month?

Ohio State's E.J. Liddell (left) is on the Hawks' radar ahead of the NBA draft. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Combined ShapeCaption
Ohio State's E.J. Liddell (left) is on the Hawks' radar ahead of the NBA draft. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

The Hawks will retool their roster this offseason hoping to put the best pieces around All-Star point guard Trae Young. They hold the No. 16 pick in the NBA draft, which occurs June 23 and is usually the springboard into the offseason.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Hawks

It’s possible the No. 16 pick is included in a trade. The Hawks have long been ripe for a consolidation deal (a three-for-one type trade that swaps quantity for quality). If the Hawks keep the selection, they will have a bevy of options to bolster depth at a cheap cost.

The rookie could have a clear path to playing time should the Hawks pull off a three-for-one-type deal. Otherwise, the draftee will probably be in similar position to Jalen Johnson, last year’s first-round pick who appeared in only 22 games and averaged 5.5 minutes.

Here are some players who could fit the Hawks in the first round. They’re all flawed and aren’t considered among the draft’s top-10 players, but each offers some reasons for optimism in areas that the Hawks need to address.

Forward Tari Eason, LSU (6-foot-8, 216 pounds)

Tari Eason is popularly connected to the Hawks in mock drafts. He’s a defensive-minded forward who affects the game with his 7-foot-2 wingspan and tenacity. He’s a good athlete, switchable defender and his statistics reflected his defensive impact. He averaged 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks over 22.4 minutes per game in his two-year collegiate career at Cincinnati and LSU.

His shot needs work, but Eason might be the most logical target for the Hawks in their draft range. He instantly would upgrade the team’s defense, providing additional length and toughness, while giving Young another weapon who runs the floor and plays above the rim. He’s a player who understands his role and relishes doing the dirty work.

Forward E.J. Liddell, Ohio State (6-7, 240)

E.J. Liddell, 21, theoretically would provide an immediate contributor for the Hawks, who are trying to take a step forward from playoff team to legitimate contender. Liddell checks the boxes you’d want out of a modern role player: He’s a tough defender, gives consistent effort, has length and shot 37.4% beyond the arc. He’s a plug and play for any team.

Forward Jeremy Sochan, Baylor (6-9, 230)

Jeremy Sochan is another player who could require patience to see his full form, but he also would improve the Hawks’ defense out of the gate. He’s a switchable defender with a high motor, which makes him a logical fit for the Hawks. Perhaps Young can help unlock Sochan’s offensive potential, as well. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said Sochan shows shades of Draymond Green, Ben Simmons and Aaron Gordon – three players who have heavy impacts on the game on defense.

Forward Ochai Agbaji, Kansas (6-5, 215)

Ochai Agbaji, 22, starred for the NCAA champion Jayhawks and provides the best of both worlds when it comes to instant production and room to grow. Agbaji is a superb athlete who would upgrade the Hawks’ perimeter defense and provide shooting (40.9% on 3-point shots this past season). If the Hawks intend to trade some of their depth and want an impact player to fill out their bench, Agbaji should be among the top options.

Guard Malaki Branham, Ohio State (6-5, 180)

The Hawks had Malaki Branham in for a workout this week, but it’s increasingly likely he won’t make it to their selection. Branham has a lot of buzz, even as early as the top 10. His overall offensive game stood out at Ohio State, where he shot 41.6% from 3-point range (and his 83.3% rate from the free-throw line suggests his shooting success is real). He can contribute on and off the ball. Branham could be a bench spark next season, with the potential to become more.

Forward Kendall Brown, Baylor (6-6, 201)

Kendall Brown also was among the players who worked out for the Hawks this week. He’s usually projected below No. 16, but his physical profile, from his length to his A-grade athletic ability, makes him appealing. As a versatile defender, tremendous finisher and weapon in transition, he’d be a snug fit for the Hawks.

Guard Jalen Williams, Santa Clara (6-6, 195)

Jalen Williams is one of the big winners of the pre-draft process. He’s lanky, possessing a 7-2 wingspan, moves well and showed some creation ability. He shot 39.6% from beyond the arc at Santa Clara. Like Liddell, it’s easy to envision Williams’ fit on any roster. Landing a player with his two-way ability in the middle of the first could be a coup.

Forward Patrick Baldwin, Milwaukee (6-9, 225)

Patrick Baldwin was a top high school recruit whose stock was ruined as he struggled and battled injuries with Milwaukee. Baldwin, commonly projected in the top 10 before the season, was sold as a lengthy shooter and scorer. He’s worth mentioning here because the Hawks drafted Johnson last year in a similar situation after he lost his shine at Duke. Baldwin would be another swing at a player who’s just one year removed from five-star recruit status. Some project he’ll slip out of the first round entirely, though.

Forward Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand Breakers (6-9, 185)

Ousmane Dieng, 19, is a bit of an unknown, but what he can be is a tantalizing thought. Imagine Young, who has stated his desire to play off-ball more, working with a 6-9 ballhandler who has some playmaking ability. He’s a swing-for-the-fences pick, which the Hawks have done before with Cam Reddish and Johnson.

Forward Nikola Jovic, Serbia (6-10, 210)

Nikola Jovic unquestionably is one of the more intriguing players in the class. He’s a big man with guard skills and a crafty game on offense. He isn’t a great athlete or impact defender yet, but what he possesses is offensive upside. O’Connor compared him with Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari.

Guard TyTy Washington, Kentucky (6-2, 196)

This might not be the obvious pick, but the Hawks need another ballhandler. TyTy Washington is a distributor who’ll pack the stat sheet. Washington’s size, handle and playmaking mean he could play alongside Young.

Guard Dalen Terry, Arizona (6-7, 195)

Dalen Terry recently opted to remain in the draft. He’s an increasingly hot name three weeks from decision day. ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony wrote that Terry has impressed teams with his character “while dropping glimpses of significant versatility and upside” as a 19-year-old. The No. 16 pick feels early right now. It might not in a few weeks.

Forward MarJon Beauchamp, G League Ignite (6-5, 197)

MarJon Beauchamp is another versatile defender. His defense and motor should make him an early asset, but he doesn’t offer much on offense. He shot 24% from beyond the arc in the G League this season.