2024 NBA Draft: New Prediction For Atlanta With The No. 1 Overall Pick

Who will the Hawks select with the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft?
2024 NBA Draft Prospect Alex Sarr
2024 NBA Draft Prospect Alex Sarr / Sporting News
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The 2024 NBA Draft is quickly approaching and is just a month away. It will be the next big date in the NBA's offseason and after shocking the world by winning the draft lottery a couple of weeks ago, the Atlanta Hawks now control the draft with the first pick. Most mock drafts since the Hawks won the lottery have seen Atlanta take Alex Sarr, the 7'1 220 LBS forward/center from France. Sarr fits ahuge need for the Hawks, as he is projected to be an excellent defender with length and athleticism, though his offensive game needs to come along.

In the past few days though, the Hawks have been linked to France's Zaccharie Risacher and UConn center Donovan Clingan as possible selections with the No. 1 overall pick. Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley dropped a new prediction for what the Hawks will do with the No. 1 overall pick:

"In a lot of years, it's fairly obvious by now which player is going first overall.

This is not one of those years.

As ESPN's Jonathan Givony relayed, folks "don't have a firm grasp" on what the Atlanta Hawks will do with the No. 1 pick. Most—though certainly not all—mocks have them snatching up Alex Sarr, but Givony noted they're also expected "to consider other options...including [Zaccharie] Risacher, Donovan Clingan and trade opportunities.

B/R's Jonathan Wasserman also had Alex Sarr's fellow Frenchman Zaccharie Risacher at No. 1 to the Hawks in his May 21 Mock Draft.

Atlanta's plan to, as general manager Landry Fields put it, "cast a wide net" seems smart at this part of the process in this draft. But all of the Hawks' homework will likely lead them to the same conclusion as all of those mock-drafters:

Sarr should be the pick.

He may have, as Wasserman opined in his Sarr Scouting Profile, "the draft's highest two-way ceiling," which sort of feels like a case-closed conclusion on this debate. If analysts think he'll impact both ends of the floor more than anyone, why bother going a different direction?

Center might not be a glaring position of need for Atlanta on paper, but Clint Capela has been on the trade block for months (or longer), and Onyeka Okongwu is far from a sure thing as a full-time starting 5.

Sarr, meanwhile, could hit the ground sprinting (soaring?) with the Hawks, anchoring their bottom-five defense with paint protection and perimeter switch-ability while perhaps becoming the preferred pick-and-choose partner with whichever playmaker they keep. His ceiling, if fully realized, could one day feature dynamic finishing at the rim, jump-shooting out to the perimeter and an ability to make plays for himself and his teammates on the short roll."

I don't think it would be a shock to anyone if they took Sarr, though it does seem that they are entertaining those other players at No. 1. In a draft like this one, there is not a perfect player to take with the top pick and all of these guys have flaws. I have questions about how high Risacher's ceiling really is. Clingan's offensive game is incomplete and might never be that good. Sarr has similar questions about shooting and his offensive game, though it is better than Clingan's. All of these guys have traits that would be useful to Atlanta though and I don't think anyone should be upset if either of these guys ends up going No. 1.

I would take Sarr if I was making the pick though.

He is 7'1, 220 LBS, and has a 7'4 wingspan. He uses his athleticism well and would be an impact guy on that end of the floor immediately. He is arguably the highest-ceiling prospect in the draft at a position of need for the Hawks. He is the presumed favorite to be selected No. 1 for a reason.

If they do take Sarr, I do think that would expedite Clint Capela's exit from the Hawks, as I think Sarr is going to play center in the league (but he could play power forward). Atlanta would have a logjam at the position and if you take Sarr at No. 1, he needs to be playing plenty of minutes right away, not coming off of the bench. Capela was already a candidate to be traded due to him being on an expiring contract and his age. I think the biggest question would be if Sarr and Onyeka Okongwu could play together on the court. Okongwu has primarily been a center while with the Hawks and rarely shares the floor with another big man, though head coach Quin Snyder did try lineups with Capela and Okongwu on the floor together last year, though it was in limited amounts.

Per Cleaning the Glass, Okongwu and Capela played only 279 possessions this season and had a point differential of +2.1 when they shared the court. The problem is this sample size is far too low and there is not enough evidence to say that Okongwu could play the four well.

It is not just the fit of Okongwu and Sarr that would be the question though. Jalen Johnson showed huge leaps on offense this past season, including improvement in shooting the three. Johnson shot 28.8% on three's in 2022-2023, but improved that to 35.5% this season, going 71-200. Could there be another leap in his future? It would help in the event that Atlanta decided that they wanted to take Sarr and not trade away Okongwu.

The defensive fit would be very intriguing though with those three guys on the floor. Some of Atlanta's best lineups included Johnson and Okongwu, though it was a small sample size, but you have to wonder if there could be something there. If Johnson and Okongwu both showed steps toward spacing the floor, this could be a dangerous lineup for the future. The ability of Johnson, Okongwu, and Sarr to switch and guard multiple positions would be something that Atlanta has never had with Trae Young and would help hide his shortcomings on the defensive end.

The aspect of this fit that I have not mentioned yet is Trae Young, who is one of the best offensive players and shot-creators in the NBA. Assuming that the Hawks choose to keep him, Young makes life easier for every player on the court and that would help ease Sarr's transition on offense. He has never gotten the luxury of playing with a point guard of that caliber and he would get a lot of great looks on the floor. It is almost impossible to have a bad offense on the floor as long as Young is leading the charge on that end, but the shooting and spacing would still be the biggest question mark.

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Jackson Caudell


Jackson Caudell covers the Atlanta Hawks and Georgia Tech Athletics for FanNation