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Hawks Hit the Jackpot in the NBA Draft Lottery

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Atlanta Hawks fans did not think they would find themselves hoping for a good pick via the 2024 NBA Draft Lottery. The Hawks had high expectations at the start of the 2023-2024 season, and Dejounte Murray set a concrete goal for his squad at media day on Oct. 2, 2023.

“Be better than last year… Win and be a top-four seed. Being a Play-In team is not an option,” Murray said firmly. However, that goal never materialized for Atlanta. The Hawks never established a consistent rhythm, as they suffered many injuries to key players and struggled mightily on the defensive end.

After a 36-46 record and first-round Play-In Tournament exit, the franchise headed into an offseason full of questions. The draft lottery was the first important step this summer. When Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum called out the Hawks last, General Manager Landry Fields smiled from ear to ear, knowing he had a chance to change the Hawks’ trajectory for the better this offseason.


An Unlikely Historic Moment

Since the NBA implemented a lottery system in 1985, Atlanta has never won it in the franchise’s existence—until now. For the second time in the team’s history, the Hawks have the first overall pick in the draft this summer. In 1975, they selected David Thompson out of North Carolina State University with the number one pick. However, the hall-of-fame guard/forward chose to play in the ABA and never joined Atlanta.

The Hawks only had a 3% chance to win the lottery on Sunday, which was the second-lowest pre-draft odds. But once Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum called the Utah Jazz with the tenth pick, Atlanta and the Houston Rockets were locked into a top-four selection. Fields, who represented his franchise at the event, smiled. Rockets head coach, Ime Udoka, sat with a straight face. When Tatum called the Hawks last, Fields knew history had been made. After a disappointing season, Hawks fans had a lot to cheer about on Mother’s Day in 2024.

“That’s crazy. Beat the Odds… So we gotta keep doing what we’re doing here, keep building. It’s an exciting moment for the franchise, so it’s good stuff,” said Fields after a couple of laughs.


Could Atlanta Have a Star in Sarr?

Atlanta already had a lot of big decisions to make before the lottery. The first overall pick adds another wrinkle to the franchise’s offseason plans. The immediate question is whether they use it to add a high-upside potential star or explore packaging it in a trade in a win-now move.

If the Hawks select a rookie, the most likely candidate in most mock drafts is Alexandre Sarr, a 7-foot-1-inch, 224-pound French big man with great shot-blocking skills and versatility. He can handle the ball and occasionally step outside to shoot from beyond the arc. His defense projects to help his future NBA squad more than his offense, but his ceiling offensively is sky-high.

Sarr fits the Hawks’ roster well. Atlanta would benefit from a more versatile offensive center than Clint Capela. Sarr is an ideal pick-and-roll/fade partner for Trae Young as a lob threat and passer out of the short roll. His ability to create his own offense from the post and perimeter could relieve pressure off Murray, Jalen Johnson, and Young. 

Onyeka Okongwu and Sarr give Atlanta the ability to throw different looks at the opposition. Okongwu is more versatile on the defensive end, switching onto guards, while Sarr helps the Hawks add shot creation outside of their dynamic backcourt.


The Ultimate “Win-Now” Move

Fields has a lot of pressure this summer to build around Young. Trade rumors are swirling around him and Murray, as the All-Star point guard has put pressure on the front office to build a contending team. 

“Obviously, I want to be here. I want to be here, but I want to win, too… I want to be here. I want to win championships here… That’s been me from the beginning,” replied Young to Alison Mastrangelo of WSBTV.

If a superstar becomes available from a team that flames out in the playoffs, Atlanta could look to attach the first overall pick with someone like Murray to bring a superstar to the franchise. For example, the Phoenix Suns have a lot of questions surrounding the trio of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. They need a point guard to organize their offense. If one of Booker or Durant becomes available, the Hawks could have an enticing trade package starting Murray and the first overall pick.

The first round of the NBA draft takes place on June 26. For the first time in a while, the Hawks will be the talk of the NBA world this summer as they decide their future.

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