Potential No. 1 pick's former head coach dishes on 'talk' with Hawks

One prospect appears to be gaining momentum as the Atlanta Hawks' preferred top choice in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder
Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks’ plans for the No. 1 pick are still unclear. 

There is an argument to be made for taking Alexandre Sarr – the 7-foot-1 Frenchman who profiles as a defensive anchor and two-way threat at center in an ideal outcome – or 6-foot-8 wing Zaccharie Risacher who drew a notable group of Hawks officials to see him play.

However, UConn center Donovan Clingan is gaining steam, first with reports that the Hawks “really like” the 7-foot-3 two-time NCAA champion, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.

Now, it appears the Hawks have gone a step further in their evaluations.

When asked which people he leaned on as he decided whether or not to accept the Los Angeles Lakers offer – which he declined – UConn’s Dan Hurley dropped a notable nugget about the Hawks.

“Quin Snyder is a really smart guy who, I know that they (the Atlanta Hawks) really like Donovan (Clingan), so I was able to kind of talk to them about Donovan, but then also to pick his brain in large part,” Hurley said naming the Hawks head coach among a slew of other trusted confidants, per CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander on June 14.

Snyder has been the main connection used to link the Hawks and Clingan in reports. The Hawks did host the big man for a private workout.

They have also hosted Risacher, among others, and are expected to bring in Sarr and more.

Clingan is arguably the most NBA-ready of the top-three prospects given his frame and ability to anchor a defense. There are questions about his offensive game, with optimism about his ability to extend his range more of a theory than reality at this point.

“I've heard that Atlanta likes Donovan Clingan. Quin Snyder especially likes Donovan Clingan,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said on “The Lowe Post” podcast on June 4. “Atlanta had, I think, one of the worst defenses in the NBA the past few years. And one great way to fix that is to draft a guy with a 9-foot-7 standing reach, who is the best shot blocker in this draft, who anchored a national championship defense the past two years.”

Hawks may be zeroing in on UConn's Donovan Clingan in 2024 NBA Draft

The Hawks are reportedly willing to move back in the 2024 NBA Draft, trading out of the No. 1 slot with designs on adding Clingan and additional assets.

Clingan is a top-three prospect who might experience a minor drop on draft night because teams that are in the Nos. 3-6 range already have starting centers in place,” Givony wrote on June 7. “He's in conversation at No. 1 after working out in Atlanta (which is exploring trade-down scenarios).”

“He's viewed by many as the draft's most impactful defensive prospect with the timing he shows as a rim-protector and the improvement he has made guarding the pick-and-roll.”

One possible trade partner is the San Antonio Spurs. The two sides worked together on the Dejounte Murray trade in 2022. A subsequent trade could give the Hawks back some control of their future if they wanted to embark on a rebuild.

Scenarios that would give the Hawks two picks in the top 10 have been floated.

“Trading this pick for more immediate contributors or moving down to take multiple swings in this relatively flat lottery class are options,” Givony wrote on May 31. “Take for example a scenario in which San Antonio would trade the No. 4 and No. 8 selections for the right to move up and draft [Zaccharie] Risacher.”

As enticing as that may be, the Hawks need to weigh the risk of dropping multiple spots if they are as high on Clingan as reports suggest.

Any more than one spot back and another team could just trade up in front of them. Rumors have linked several teams to Clingan in potential trades up in the draft, including the Eastern Conference rival Chicago Bulls.