Will Hawks take projected #1 overall pick Alex Sarr?

NBA: APR 01 Hawks at Bulls

The Hawks landed the #1 overall pick, winning the NBA Draft lottery for the first time after having just 3% odds to do so. It’s a lucky break for a franchise in desperate need of something to go their way, but it’s not going to make the job of the Hawks front office any easier.

In most draft classes, there is a clear-cut #1 prospect that is almost deemed “can’t miss.” That’s not the case this year, as Mike Vorkunov illustrates for The Athletic. 

“Now comes the hard part for the Hawks. They won the top pick in a draft perceived to be without a consensus top player. There is no Victor Wembanyama or Zion Williamson to slot at the top of mock drafts. It is not even considered to be as strong a draft as 2022 or 2021, when the Orlando Magic’s Paolo Banchero and the Detroit Pistons’ Cade Cunningham, respectively, went first.”

There will be a number of names floated as potential #1 picks between now and the NBA Draft, but right now, the projected top guy is French big man Alex Sarr.

At 7-foot-1, Sarr is often compared to last year’s #1 overall pick and fellow countryman Victor Wembanyama. However, most of the comparisons end with the fact that they are both big men with huge wingspans from the same country. The hope is that Sarr can also develop into a center that can stretch the floor because of his advanced skills handling the ball and shooting for a player his size, but there are many more questions about his strengths in those areas than there were surrounding Wenbamyama.

Side note: It’s always funny to watch an NBA prospect nail threes at a 70% clip against air, only for some guy on the couch to say that it won’t translate to The Association. However, it’s more of a testament to how skilled NBA players are when shooting in practice compared to a game environment.

Alex Sarr is coming off a season for the Perth Wildcats in the National Basketball League (Australia) where he averaged 9.7 points on 52% shooting with 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Not exactly eye-popping numbers, but he was only playing 17.2 minutes per game in a very competitive professional basketball league at just 18-years-old.

The attractive aspects of Sarr’s game stem from his fluid athleticism for a player his size. He’s an extremely versatile defender that is elite at protecting the rim and capable of defending out on the perimeter. For a Hawks team that has really struggled defensively, this has to be extremely appealing.

However, like Jonathan Wasserman notes, teams aren’t typically looking to find the next Clint Capela when drafting first overall. Sarr’s floor is very high, but if he wants to reach his ceiling, he’s going to need to be a productive shooter at the next level. For the Perth Wildcats, that was not the case, as he shot below 30% from behind the arc. There is some promise in his shooting form for a seven-footer, but whoever drafts him will be counting on him to develop that shot as his career continues.

Sarr is one of several names that will be selected by the Hawks in mock drafts over the next six weeks. It’s not going to be an easy decision, but yesterday can be viewed as nothing less than an overwhelming victory for the basketball club in Atlanta. They have an opportunity to turn this ship around; now, it’s up to the men in charge to take advantage of it.

Photo: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

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