May 27th, 2024

Hawks win NBA lottery in year where there’s no clear choice for No. 1 pick

By Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press on May 12, 2024.

CHICAGO (AP) – The Atlanta Hawks won the NBA draft lottery on Sunday, landing the No. 1 pick and a potential cornerstone player in a year where there’s no clear-cut choice.

The Hawks hit the jackpot despite just 3% odds after finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference at 36-46. They dropped their final six regular-season games and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the play-in tournament.

The Hawks haven’t won a postseason series since a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2021. They got knocked out in the first round in 2022 and 2023.

Atlanta has some big decisions to make this offseason, including whether to break up its backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. General manager Landry Fields can build with the No. 1 pick, though it’s not clear who will be taken first after Victor Wembanyama was the obvious choice for San Antonio last year.

Washington, Houston, San Antonio and Detroit rounded out the top five. The draft is June 26-27 in Brooklyn.

The Toronto Raptors fell to eighth, meaning the pick will go to San Antonio as part of the trade for centre Jakob Poeltl in February 2023. The 2024 first-round pick, one of three sent from the Raptors to the Spurs, was a top-six protected draft choice.

Washington and Detroit had the best chances to land the top pick at 14%. Only four teams have won the lottery with slimmer odds than Atlanta, with the biggest longshot being Orlando at 1.52% in 1993. The Magic orchestrated a blockbuster draft night trade with Golden State, sending the rights to Chris Webber to the Warriors for the rights to Penny Hardaway along with three future first-round picks.

San Antonio landed a generational player last year in Wembanyama. The franchise that previously took David Robinson and Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick got its next great big man, and all the Frenchman did was turn in one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history.

The No. 1 pick could once again come from France, whether it’s center Alex Sarr or sharp-shooting forward Zaccharie Risacher, but that’s far from a certainty. UConn guard Stephon Castle and Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham are both expected to be off the board within the first few selections.

The 7-foot-1, 224-pound Sarr has the size and mobility that teams crave and can defend the perimeter when he’s not blocking shots down low. The 19-year-old from Toulouse is known for his explosiveness around the rim, though he could use some more muscle. It would help, too, if he developed into a more reliable 3-point shooter.

Sarr, whose brother Olivier plays for the Oklahoma City, spent this past season in Australia’s National Basketball League.

Risacher, who was born in Spain and grew up in France, is known as a dynamic, albeit streaky shooter for JL Bourg, whether he’s popping off screens or pulling up for 3-pointers. He often guards the other team’s best player.

Castle joined Andre Drummond in 2012 as UConn’s only one-and-done players when he declared for the draft in April after the Huskies’ latest NCAA championship run. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists while often drawing the defensive assignment to shut down the opposition’s top perimeter player. He scored 21 in UConn’s Final Four win over Alabama and had 15 points in the championship game against Purdue.

Sheppard and Dillingham both came off the bench in their lone college seasons.

Sheppard, who was voted the Southeastern Conference’s top freshman by coaches after leading the league in steals, was one of the league’s best playmakers and perimeter shooters. He was Kentucky’s No. 3 scorer at 12.5 points per contest and averaged an SEC-best 2.5 steals that ranked eighth nationally, despite starting just five of 33 games. He also averaged 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and made 52% of his 3-point attempts.

Dillingham was voted the SEC’s top sixth man after averaging 15.2 and 3.9 assists. Kentucky tied for second in the conference and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, only to get knocked out by Oakland in the round of 64. Coach John Calipari then left after 15 years for Arkansas.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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