When the ping-pong balls stopped bouncing, the Atlanta Hawks landed the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Fans and the team were hoping for a little more luck, but will have to make do with the draft position the Hawks have been dealt. They already have their budding stars in Trae Young and John Collins, so “losing” the lottery is not as detrimental.
This draft class is universally seen as fairly weak, and the lack of tape on a lot of the top players has been just one of the many negative impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Finding a future superstar at No. 6 overall in a draft like this seems unlikely.
The Hawks most likely missed out on the chance to select Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, who are the two perimeter players that many deem to have serious star potential. However, this is not the end of the world. Atlanta will get a chance to draft a quality player that can help the team.
Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk is on record saying that the team will take the best available player when they are on the clock. The problem with this is that there is nowhere near a consensus ranking for the players in this class. Who the Hawks have on their board as the best players is not public knowledge, but there needs to be some discussion about the options that will be presented with a pick in the top half of the lottery.
A playoff appearance is the stated goal for Lloyd Pierce and others next season. The hope surrounding the organization is that this will be the last time the Hawks hold a pick this high, or even in the lottery at all, for the foreseeable future. Schlenk will need to evaluate if the best available player, in his eyes, is going to contribute to the team’s goals as much as drafting the player that fits best on the team.
Avoiding hypotheticals is ideal, but they are going to make this debate easier to break down. In one scenario, James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu could be on the board when the Hawks make their selection. Schlenk may see either one of them as the best player they can take, yet their fit on the roster may not be optimal for Atlanta to start contending.
The Hawks already have Collins, Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon and Bruno Fernando on the roster. Wiseman and Okongwu, fighting for minutes, would probably not have much of an impact on the team’s success during their early years. While it is great to have a plethora of capable and talented bigs on a roster, the Hawks may find more value by going in a different direction.
Prospects like Deni Avdija, Killian Hayes, Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro and Tyrese Haliburton (these are just a few) project to be better fits on a Hawks team that is looking to fill talent between Young and Collins. The Hawks need other playmakers and defense at the guard and wing positions. All of those players will bring either secondary playmaking or tenacious defense.
As good as Young is on offense, and he is superb, he struggles defensively. The Hawks are have already targeted perimeter defense with the addition of Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, and Atlanta will benefit from adding more capable defenders in the backcourt and in the wing rotation. This is at least part of the reason why players like Vassell and Okoro are tied to the team in pre-draft rumors.
Having a wing rotation that can defend is so important in a league that is dominated by forwards who can score. The Hawks were the 5th-worst defensive team statistically last season. Atlanta’s wing players were inexperienced in 2019-20, and adding more depth to that position may be what is best fit to improve the team.
Additionally, the squad struggled offensively when Young was on the bench. Seeking out a player with creation and playmaking ability should be high on Schlenk’s list of priorities.
Of course, nobody outside of the upper management of the team knows who the Hawks are targeting on their board, but there are many mock drafts out there suggesting Atlanta could scoop up a big man. As noted above, Okongwu or Wiseman may be the best player available when the Hawks are on the clock, but Schlenk will have to decide if they are the best candidates to help the Hawks win more games.
The players that Atlanta will be able to take at No. 6 will all be pretty close in terms of projection and value, and part of this is a fallout from the limitation of tape on a lot of the prospects. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to who the Hawks will target among the recent mock drafts.
Schlenk and Pierce obviously have a direction for the team. The organization is going to take whoever they believe is best for the Hawks. The dream scenario, of course, is that the player the Hawks have at the top of their board is also the player that is the best fit for the roster at No. 6 overall.