The 2021 NBA draft is just a day away, and while it may not feel as exciting for Hawks fans as it has the past few seasons, it will still be a pivotal night for this franchise’s future. In years past, the Hawks’ draft night strategy has been to take the best player available, and I don’t believe that will be changing this time around.
Some teams may look for an ideal fit or a player that can help contribute now with a pick in the Hawks’ range; however, due to the team’s combination of depth and strong young talent, Travis Schlenk can afford to swing big on a player with more upside at 20.
With that being said, here are three prospects who look to be on the Hawks radar.
Cameron Thomas (Guard, LSU)
Stats: 23 PPG 1.4 APG 3.4 RPG
During a live mock draft on ESPN, the Hawks were projected to take Thomas with their first-round pick.
Perhaps the most natural scorer in this draft class, the LSU shooting guard has zero issues finding a shot he doesn’t like. As a freshman, his points per game were good for fourth in the entire NCAA. His pull-up jump shot is among the best in the class, and his catch and shoot numbers aren’t bad either. While he shot just 32.5% on threes this season, he did that on elite volume at 7.2 attempts per game.
His free throw percentage is also a positive indicator of his shooting touch, as he made 88.2% of his free throw attempts as a freshman. Pure scoring is what he’ll give you as a prospect; however, that’s all he can provide right now. While he is 6’5″ with a solid frame, Thomas does not project to be an overly capable defender in the NBA.
Again though, when picking at 20, you’re not going to find the perfect prospect, and Thomas possesses at least one elite skill. While there are playmaking and defensive concerns for him at the next level, the scoring upside may be just enough to have Travis Schlenk take a shot on him.
Ayo Dosunmu (Guard, Illinois)
Stats: 20.1 PPG 5.3 APG 6.3 RPG
According to Zach Harper of The Athletic, the Hawks are “a real possibility, and where many are guessing he (Ayo Dosunmu) goes.” I think this would be a phenomenal fit. While he is a somewhat older prospect, he could immediately fill in as the backup point guard behind Trae Young.
At 6’5″ with a 6’10” wingspan, it’s also possible that he could play beside Young as well. Not only can he attack in transition and get his own shot, but he also projects to be at least a solid defender with his frame and athleticism.
The concerns with him seem to be with the jump shot, as he would otherwise be a lock for the lottery. While he did shoot 39% from three this year, it seems the consensus is that the jump shot is a major question mark for Ayo. However, all reports also indicate that he’s a phenomenal person with an outstanding work ethic, so I’d feel confident that he’ll figure it out with the Hawks training staff.
Ziaire Williams (Wing, Stanford)
Stats: 10.7 PPG 2.2 AST 4.6 REB
At 6’10”, 190 lbs, Williams has all the size you can ask for from a wing player in the NBA, and he’s been linked to Atlanta by ESPN in their latest mock draft.
While Williams came into the season with high expectations, his value dropped over the course of the season due to a mediocre freshman campaign with the Cardinals. However, similar to Cam Reddish, Williams was a highly rated prospect for a reason and dealt with some injuries during college that clearly limited him on the court.
Williams certainly has lottery-level talent, as he’s not only big enough for a wing but more than athletic enough as well. If he can further develop his pull up jump shooting and add some strength, he should push the likes of Hunter and Reddish for playing time by year two. Out of the three players mentioned in this article, Williams seems to have the most upside; however, it will be up to Travis Schlenk and company to weigh that upside versus the risk.
Of course, Travis Schlenk may go in a completely different direction or even trade out of the spot. Still, if he does decide to stay at 20, each of these prospects would be a fine addition to the best young core in the NBA.
The draft is Thursday at 8 PM and will be carried by both ESPN and ABC.