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Evaluating The First Stage of Hawks’ Offseason

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The 2024 NBA Draft has come and gone. The Atlanta Hawks walked away with two new, exciting prospects to add to their roster. They selected Zaccharie Risacher with the first overall pick and traded into the second round to grab Nikola Djurišić with pick 43. This article discusses how they can contribute to Atlanta’s roster in the near future.

Risacher Goes Number 1

On Friday, June 28, the organization welcomed both draftees to Atlanta for their introductory press conference. General Manager Landry Fields, Djurišić, and Risacher all spoke to Atlanta-based media for the first time since the draft. Fields confirmed that deciding on Risacher came down to the final days before the draft.

“It came down to the last few days… Narrowed it down two [players],” Fields said. Before the draft started, Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Hawks were leaning toward Risacher, but Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard was also in the mix. The Houston Rockets ultimately took Sheppard with the third pick.

Risacher, a wing who played for JR Bourg in the LNB Pro A French league, stands at 6 feet 8 inches. His threat from beyond the arc immediately jumps off the page. Over his professional career, he shot 40.7% from deep on 2.4 attempts per game. Hawks Head Coach Quin Snyder emphasizes the value of spacing and volume from the three-point range. Risacher fits right into Snyder’s philosophy, excelling off the ball and constantly maneuvering around screens for open looks. He will get open. The 19-year-old forward is eager to find out how he can help the Hawks win.

“I’m a versatile player. I feel like I can fit easily into this team. I can’t wait to figure out what is going to be my role,” said Risacher on draft night.

Throughout the draft, NBA analysts highlighted the value of tall, versatile wings. The Boston Celtics won the 2024 NBA championship centered around a team of wings who can defend and do damage from the three-point line. Risacher has all the tools to defend both guards and wings.

“I know that I can do a lot of things. Defend multiple positions, grab some rebounds, finish strong, be aggressive… shooting threes obviously,” expressed Risacher. 

Growing up, Risacher’s favorite player was Kevin Durant. While he does not have the pure scoring of Durant, his size and high release give him the ability to shoot over smaller defenders like the all-time great. Risacher is eager to get to work and begin his NBA journey.

“It’s a blessing to feel like you’re at the right place… Everything is set up here to work and to improve,” Risacher replied to Hawks play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.


Hawks Trade for Djurišić

Atlanta did not own a second-round pick coming into the second round of the draft. About two hours before the draft started, Wojnarowski reported the Hawks traded A.J. Griffin to the Rockets for pick 44. 

Griffin had a great rookie season two years ago, averaging 8.9 points and shooting 39% from beyond the arc. However, he struggled in Snyder’s quick-paced offense because Griffin brings a slower, more patient approach to the hardwood. He also missed a large portion of the campaign due to personal reasons, so it resulted in a lost season.

Before the Hawks were on the clock, they traded for a second time. Atlanta sent cash and pick 44 to the Miami Heat in exchange for pick 43, which became Djurišić. Djurišić is a 20-year-old 6-foot-8-inch wing. He excels at creating his own shot off the dribble and driving into the lane. While his frame suggests he plays the forward position, Djurišić has a lot of guard skills, such as operating in the pick-and-roll as the ballhandler. He averaged 14.4 points for Mega in the ABA this season. 

“When you identify guys you really want – let’s be aggressive to go get them,” said Fields in the rookie’s introductory presser.

While Djurišić does not project to be in a rotation role early in 2024, Atlanta’s G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, has done a great job developing players such as Kobe Bufkin and Vít Krejčí. He projects to be a focal point on offense throughout the season in College Park.

“Knowing that a team wants you is really special,” expressed Djurišić to Rathbun. The Hawks traded twice in the span of four hours to get Djurišić in a Hawks uniform, showing confidence in his ability to help build out the roster.

The Hawks still have a busy offseason ahead. Atlanta is expected to be one of the most active teams on the trade market, especially regarding Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, and Clint Capela. The draft was just the first step in an offseason that projects to be full of change in “The A.”


Murray Heads to New Orleans


Just 48 hours after selecting the first pick in the 2024 NBA draft, the Hawks were the talk of the NBA world again. On March 28, Wojnarowski reported Atlanta was trading Murray to the New Orleans Pelicans. After just two seasons with the Trae Young/Murray backcourt, Atlanta decided to split up the pair. The Hawks will receive Dyson Daniels, Larry Nance Jr., E.J. Liddell, a 2025 first-round pick (unprotected via Lakers), and a 2027 first-round pick.


Daniels Upgrades the Hawks’ Defense

Murray had the best offensive year of his career this season, averaging 22.5 points and 2.6 threes per game. However, when they first acquired him, the Hawks mis-evaluated Murray’s ability to guard the point-of-attack. He and Young could not contain opposing guards, allowing opponents to wreak havoc in Atlanta’s paint.

Daniels will have an immediate impact at the point of attack for the Hawks. The 6-foot-8-inch guard has already proven to be a superb perimeter defender at just 21 years of age. He and Herbert Jones formed one of the strongest defensive duos in the NBA. Now, Atlanta brings him in to take over at the point of attack.

Currently constructed, Daniels could start at shooting guard next to Young, guarding the opposition’s best perimeter scorer. While his defense is never in question, he needs to improve his outside shooting to be more consistent offensively. Daniels only shot 31.1% on 2.2 attempts from beyond the arc per game. He has playmaking and slashing ability, so if teams play him too tight or close out recklessly, Daniels will attack the seams. 

He connected on many alley-oops with Zion Williamson in New Orleans off pick-and-rolls and transition buckets. Now, he will have Jalen Johnson as a lob threat as the Hawks’ rising star forward projects to take another leap in the 2024-2025 campaign.


Nance’s Role in Question

Atlanta has a logjam at the center position. Nance, Capela, and Onyeka Okongwu all deserve minutes in the rotation. Capela has floated around in trade rumors since the offseason started, so he is the most likely candidate to be moved. If the Hawks move on from him, Nance and Okongwu will most likely share minutes as versatile, switchable defenders.

Nance averaged 5.7 points in 61 games with the Pelicans this season. He improved his outside shooting, taking 1.1 triples per contest after just 0.6 (41.5%) attempts in the 2022-2023 campaign. Nance’s verticality will serve as a great lob threat for Young in pick-and-rolls. He is listed as 6 feet 8 inches, but Nance converted to playing small-ball center in New Orleans for most of his minutes. He passes well from the high post and excels in dribble-handoff (DHO) situations. These skills mesh well with Snyder’s tendency to run a lot of DHOs in his fast-paced, motion offense. 

Last season, Capela struggled to defend at the level of high screens, even though he improved in this area late in the campaign. He excels in drop coverage defense, but this defensive philosophy is slowly decreasing in today’s NBA. Nance’s quickness for a big man allows him to hard hedge at the level of the screen, cutting the ballhandler from turning the corner. If the screen catches the defender, Nance and Okongwu can switch onto guards better than Capela.

While Nance and Okongwus’ skillsets increase Atlanta’s versatility on both ends, size becomes a legitimate question. The Hawks would have two undersized centers in the rotation. While having big wings like Johnson and Risacher will help on the glass, they might struggle to defend dominant, taller centers such as Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokić, Anthony Davis, and Kristaps Porziņģis.


Draft Capital Should Not Go Overlooked

The 2025 NBA Draft is expected to be rich with high-level talent like Cooper Flagg and Dylan Harper. In this trade, the Hawks received the Los Angeles Lakers’ unprotected 2025 pick. Atlanta fans will want the Lakers to perform poorly next season, so the Hawks can receive a higher selection. Atlanta gave up its own 2025 pick to the San Antonio Spurs when Murray arrived in the summer of 2022. This pick gives them more flexibility and a chance to take a prospect in a star-studded draft.

The second of the first-round picks will not be as valuable. Atlanta takes the least favorable selection of either the Milwaukee Bucks or Pelicans in 2027. However, it still gives the Hawks another pick they lost in the original trade for Murray.

Fields recuperated draft assets and acquired a young, elite defender in Daniels, as well as a solid veteran in Nance. He got back substantial value for Murray, who ultimately was not the right player to put Atlanta back into playoff contention.

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