Hawks: Top Ten Big Board for the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft

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The Hawks are in an excellent position going into the NBA Draft. With a roster that doesn’t have many holes, they can focus on taking the best player on the board and adding to the depth that got them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. With a good rotation in place, they can also take a gamble on a player with a higher upside and work on development, or they can go with a more pro-ready prospect that can contribute immediately.


Honorable Mention

F/C Usman Garuba, Spain

Garuba is your classic throwback big man; he’s a great athlete for his size that plays with toughness in the post and above the rim. He is very raw offensively, but he has a high basketball IQ and will do the dirty work on defense.


F/C Alperen Sengun, Turkey

Alex had a great breakdown on Sengun, and he seems like a prospect Travis Schlenk would have his eye on:

Even though Sengun will be 19-years-old when the next NBA season starts and is the fourth-youngest prospect in his class, the former Turkish League’s MVP plays much older than his age, given his diverse offensive pedigree. His post-game might be the most developed of anyone in his class, and a lofty comp for him would be Nikola Jokic. Much like The Joker, Sengun is a crafty and efficient facilitator — 1.11 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. He can pass better than any of Atlanta’s bigs, which would alleviate some pressure when Young is off the court.

G Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga

Ayayi is pretty stout defensively and a tall guard at 6’5, but he has yet to really explode onto the scene in three seasons with Gonzaga. He has shown steady improvement, so he could still be a backup 3-and-D guard for the Hawks with some seasoning, but there are likely better options on the board at 20.


F Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky

While Bassey may not be a guy Hawks fans are familiar with, I think he’s a very Travis Schlenk-esque pick. As a Junior, Bassey showed that he can be an impact scorer and efficient shooter. He has a great wingspan and a very high motor, so the defensive ability should develop under Nate McMillan. I think he would be a bit of a gamble, but there’s a lot of upside there to continue to bolster Atlanta’s frontcourt.


G Chris Duarte, Oregon

At 24 years old, Duarte is older than a lot of the current players on the Hawks, but that could work to Atlanta’s benefit. If Travis Schlenk decides to go with a player who can help the team right now, Duarte could very easily be the pick next Thursday. It’s rare you find a guard that averages 17 points on 53% from the floor and 42% from three this late in the first round, but Duarte’s age may scare off a lot of rebuilding teams. He doesn’t have as much upside as some other names on this list, but he could be a solid 3-and-D bench player for the Hawks immediately, much like Cam Johnson did for the Suns this season.


The Top 10

10. F/C Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

The Hawks will be missing Onyeka Okongwu for a while with a torn labrum, so perhaps they decide to roll the dice on a talented freshman who could occupy some of his minutes while he recovers. Jackson is an absolute freak athlete and incredible defender, posting over 2.6 blocks and 0.8 steals per game as a freshman. He’s a true high-flying big that could potentially replace Clint Capela one day.


9. G Cameron Thomas, LSU

The LSU product is a trendy mock selection to the Hawks, and it’s for a good reason. Thomas can straight up score; he was fourth in all of D1 college basketball with 23 points per game as a freshman. When you talk about a true Lou Williams replacement, this is your guy. Thomas has no shortage of confidence, and his ability to lead a bench unit with his supreme gifts can be second to none in this class. The problem with Thomas is he can provide a lot of empty calories at times, and he doesn’t do much else right now except score.


8. G Jared Butler, Baylor

After winning a National Championship at Baylor, Butler is likely to cash in on his success and hear his name called in round one. Although he’s a bit older, the Hawks could value him being pro-ready and attempt to work him into a backup point guard role quickly. Butler can score in bunches, and he was an efficient three-point shooter, improving in each season under Scott Drew. However, Butler isn’t much of a true point guard; he has problems with turnovers and doesn’t pass very well for a point. Still, he gives a lot of effort defensively and can score, and he did those things on college basketball’s biggest stage.


7. G Sharife Cooper, Auburn

Before the season started, I thought Sharife Cooper would easily be a lottery pick. The Atlanta native is an incredible passer, and he posted over 20 points per game for Auburn. However, he was an inefficient shooter from three and is considered a bit undersized for today’s NBA. I think he would be a fantastic developmental guard, but he’s a bit of a risk and will take some work to develop.


6. F Trey Murphy, Virginia

Don’t be shocked if Trey Murphy is a guy who gets his name called a lot earlier than expected on draft night. He has the skill set to develop into a prototypical NBA wing. The Junior reminds me a lot of fellow Cavalier and Hawk De’Andre Hunter — incredible length for a wing and could develop into a defensive monster. Murphy shot over 43% from three for Virginia, and although he hasn’t really shown any explosive characteristics, his ability to guard four positions in college will appeal to a lot of NBA GMs. He will need to get more aggressive with his game, but he could be an impact 3-and-D wing in a league that can never have enough of them.


5. G Tre Mann, Florida

Mann is a bit raw, but he’s a very talented player with the ball in his hands and has good height at 6’5 for a scoring guard. Mann took a big step forward as a sophomore, shooting 40% from three and posting over 16 points per game. If the Hawks go with Mann, it’s likely because they see him as a Lou Williams replacement that will be a microwave scorer off the bench. He’s only 20, so Mann needs to put on some weight and develop the other assets of his game, but he should be able to provide Atlanta’s bench with some buckets immediately.


4. G/F Ziaire Williams, Stanford

I have absolutely no clue where Ziaire Williams will be selected come draft night, to be completely frank with you. Some scouts think he’s a lottery pick; some think he may not even go in the first round. He didn’t have the greatest freshman season at Stanford, but the intangibles are absolutely there, and I would trust Nate McMillan to get the best out of him. Williams has the potential to develop into a point forward at 6’9, and he’s very talented offensively and defensively. His lackluster stat sheet doesn’t tell his whole story; he can score from all three levels and is truly one of the best all-around prospects in the draft. The Hawks would have to be patient with the former top recruit, but that patience could land them a superstar with the 20th pick in the draft.


3. G Jaden Springer, Tennessee

Adding Jaden Springer to this Hawks bench would be more of a long-term move, but his talent as a combo guard would fill a need and give Nate McMillan another talented youngster to work with. Springer didn’t take a ton of shots at Tennessee, but he was efficient when he did shoot, knocking down 46.7% of his shots from the floor and canning 43.5% of his threes. Springer is a pesky defender as well, and his backcourt defense is something that could benefit Atlanta immediately. With McMillan’s focus on team defense, I think Springer would fit right into a young Hawks core now and in the future.


2. C Kai Jones, Texas

Truthfully, I don’t think Kai Jones makes it to the Hawks at 20, or he would be first on this list. However, Zach Hood of Peachtree Hoops recently had the Hawks taking Jones in an SB Nation writer’s mock draft. Even after selecting Onyeka Okongwu, who will miss substantial time in 2021-2022 with a torn labrum, Jones is way too talented for the Hawks to pass on. He is a bit raw, but he is an absolute freak athlete who can defend multiple positions and jump out of the gym. He actually plays very similar to Okongwu, who held his own against NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Consider the fact that Jones is an efficient shooter from the floor and shot over 38% from three last season, and I don’t think there’s any way you can pass on the 20-year-old if he falls.


1. G Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

If you read my stuff, you know Ayo Dosunmu is my guy, so I’ll stick with him for my top spot. Dosunmu is a Junior, so his body and experience should make him more prepared for an NBA brand of basketball. At Illinois last season, he posted 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 48.8% from the floor and 39% from three-point range. He is a fantastic defender and rebounder for a point guard, rare for a guy who can score efficiently and in bunches at all three levels. He’s as well-rounded of a prospect as you can find and fills a need as an upperclassman backup point guard.


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