The night is finally here, and I am going to attempt to break down what I think will happen on what has the potential to be a wild draft night. The Hawks started with six picks; they have already sold two of them as I write this article. That isn’t overly surprising. There is no way they could have added six rookies to the roster, and they could not find a partner to bundle those picks and move back into the first round. However, the real show will take place in the first 17 picks, where the Hawks have three selections. A host of rumors are swirling, and Travis Schlenk never shows his hand, so let’s dive into the possibilities.
The first order of business will be deciphering through all the whispers. For weeks, the Hawks have been linked to Jarrett Culver in a possible trade up. We know that they have had discussions with both the Pelicans and Cavs. The player they are targeting is all speculation. So do I think the Hawks package their picks and move up? No.
I’ve stood firm on this from the beginning. Unless the Hawks are trading into the top three, they won’t be moving up. In this draft, the guy available at four could be worse than the guy at the end of the lottery. Travis Schlenk referred to it as “the beauty in the eye of the beholder.” Perhaps there is a player he loves that might not make it to eight, but I’m not buying it.
Another sign the Hawks might be keeping their first round picks is them selling their second rounders for cash. They now only have four selections and could be looking to sell the 35th pick as well, so I’m guessing they stand pat with their three first round picks at 8, 10, and 17.
The 8th Pick
Who the Hawks decide to select with this pick has a lot to do with who is left. Jarrett Culver and Cam Reddish are who I am hoping will fall. However, I don’t think Culver makes it past the Cavs at five. Reddish could slide to eight, but there is probably a team before then that decides they cannot pass on his potential. That will crush many Hawks fans hopes and dreams, but there is another wing in this class that people are sleeping on.
Sekou Doumbouya is a rangy 18-year-old small forward that played in France’s top professional basketball league last year. Injuries and inexperience held him back a bit, but he showed enough to be on the radar of teams inside the lottery. At 6’9″ with a 7-foot wingspan, he believes he can defend any position. That is key in an era that is heading towards positionless basketball. Doumbouya also has promise as a three-point shooter. His measurables match up to those of Pascal Siakam, and I can see him having the same sort of impact in the NBA. With the 8th pick in the draft, the Hawks will select Sekou Doumbouya.
The 10th Pick
Assuming the Hawks have added Doumbouya to the roster with the 8th pick, their most significant need lies at center. Goga Bitadze is a player I’m high on, but I don’t believe the Hawks are going to be drafting for need. Actually, I know they aren’t. Travis Schlenk told me that last week.
“We won 29 games last year,” Schlenk said. “It’s the best player available, and then we will figure it out on the back end.”
So with this pick, I’m still trying to eye the best player available, and that guy is Nassir Little out of North Carolina.
Little is the energizer bunny. He can play next to Trae Young and guard the opponents best guard for 48 minutes. On offense he will play above the rim, is a tremendous slasher, and has shown the potential to blossom into a go-to bucket getter. Little was held back at North Carolina, as he only played in 18 minutes a game, but there was a reason he was ranked ahead of Zion Williamson coming out of high school. His ceiling is as high as anyone’s in this year’s class, and he’s a perfect fit in Atlanta.
The 17th Pick
I don’t think it’s out of the question that the Hawks triple down on wings in this draft. It is the most crucial position in basketball, and Atlanta only has one (Kevin Huerter) that looks to be apart of the team’s future. This pick comes down to who is left on the board. I’d love to see Goga available, but highly doubt that will be the case. Brandon Clarke and P.J Washington are two others I’m fond of. However, they also will likely be off the board. So I’m going to go with Virginia Tech’s Nickeil-Alexander Walker. If there’s another player I’d keep an eye on here, it’s Keldon Johnson out of Kentucky.
Walker is a microwave that can shoot lights out from distance. He’s an excellent ball-handler and passer that can play beside Trae Young at times because he is 6’5″ but also handle the point when Young needs a breather. I’m aware this selection means the Hawks completely ignored the center position, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened. I expect Dewayne Dedmon to be back next year, and the Hawks will be looking for impact players with each pick. All three of these guys have exceptionally high ceilings and could be the next building block for the Hawks future.