Hawks may have narrowed choices for No. 1 pick down to 2 candidates

One insider's report suggests the Atlanta Hawks may be down to two candidates for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 NBA Draft.
Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields
Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Who will the Atlanta Hawks select with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 NBA Draft?

After insisting that his front office would cast a “wide net” in their search for that answer, General Manager Landry Fields might have a better idea of what he wants to do than he let on.

“The Atlanta Hawks hold the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on June 26 and are increasingly expected to be choosing between two Frenchmen — Alex Sarr and Zacchanie [sic] Risacher,” The Stein Line’s Marc Stein wrote on May 23.

Sarr has been the betting favorite and spoke highly about the idea of landing in Atlanta.

“I’m really excited,” Sarr said, per Andscape’s Marc J. Spears on May 13. “The Hawks are an exciting organization. They are trending in the right direction.”

But Fields took a notable consortium of front office and coaching personnel to see Risacher perform, narrowly missing an even stronger performance the following day. Both players came away as winners from the Draft Combine in Chicago. 

Both players have also been touted for their defensive capabilities.

The Hawks boasted the No. 12 offensive rating in the league last season. But their defense checked in at 27th.

They allowed teams to shoot 67.2% at the rim (18th) and 38.4% from beyond the arc (28th), perhaps pointing to a greater need for perimeter defense than rim protection. That would favor Risacher if it comes down to a decision between the two.

“In many ways, Risacher fits the quintessential NBA wing prototype, supplying a mix of positional size, on-court smarts, scoring, playmaking and positive defense,” ESPN’s Jeremy Woo wrote on May 22. “Risacher measured at 6-foot-9 ½ in shoes at the 2023 Hoop Summit with a 6-10 ½ wingspan, giving him good size but average length for a small forward, comparing closely with wings such as Shane Battier and Memphis' Ziaire Williams.”

The Hawks have shown an overreliance on De’Andre Hunter to provide perimeter defense. 

Even with Murray – who is better at jumping passing lanes than at the point of attack – the Hawks don’t have anyone to consistently put on smaller ball carriers to disrupt them.

Hawks could be choosing between Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher for No. 1 pick

Sarr has also drawn strong reviews from Woo, who noted the big man – who is listed at 7-foot-1 and has a 7-foot-4-plus wingspan – has “impressive mobility for his size” and a budding offensive game.

“Sarr has the attributes teams dream of and the potential to be a high-level interior defender by NBA standards, able to play the 4 or 5 and offer rim protection, schematic versatility and some capability to switch on the perimeter,” Woo wrote on April 12. “It's easy to envision Sarr progressing into a top-flight defensive big.”

The Hawks can argue they are deeper at the pivot with Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, and Bruno Fernando. 2023 second-round pick Mo Gueye is also in the fold at the 4 and 5.

Rising star Jalen Johnson mans the 4 and appears to be on a star’s trajectory.

The Hawks have De’Andre Hunter and Saddiq Bey at the 3. But Hunter has a long history of knee injuries, including this season. Bey is coming off a torn ACL and is a restricted free agent this offseason.

The case for Risacher as the top pick may grow even stronger as the pre-draft plays out before the event on June 26.