Big-bodied national champion floated as Hawks' 'most likely' pick in 2024 NBA Draft

The Atlanta Hawks will begin their pre-draft process next week and could find a good fit in a national champion coming off a promising individual season.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder
Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

The next big event for the Atlanta Hawks is the NBA Scouting Combine in Chicago starting on May 12 and running through May 19.

Very little about that process has been settled aside from the participants.

The Hawks don’t know for sure where they will pick. Missing the postseason has them back in the lottery (May 12). They are currently slotted to pick No. 10 overall, but they can still land the No. 1 overall pick.

Names at the top of many pre-combine big boards included centers Alexandre Sarr and Donovan Clingan. But that only matters if the Hawks take a big leap in the draft lottery.

It is Clingan’s UConn teammate who has been deemed the Hawks’ ‘most likely’ pick at No. 10.

“Looking for two-way perimeter players also makes sense, with … Castle looking like an intriguing fit, particularly if he falls here to No. 10. Castle's ability to guard all over the floor and initiate as a secondary ball handler would make for a pretty strong fit alongside Young, potentially freeing Castle up as a shooter while also offering more size and switchability on the perimeter,” ESPN’s Jeremy Woo wrote on May 8.

“While there are some questions about where Castle's upside lies, he could be an ideal complementary player who addresses multiple needs on the Hawks' roster, particularly if they decide to move on from Murray. Castle could be on the board even if Atlanta doesn't move up and is a viable target if they do.”

Castle’s defensive potential is apparent. He averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game this past season. Castle finished the season fourth on the Huskies in minutes and fifth in points per game.

“Jumbo-sized guard who can do it all and could have superstar upside if his jumper improves,” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote.

His modest stats belie his many accomplishments as a true freshman.

O’Connor notably has Castle listed as his top prospect, which casts doubt on his availability for the Hawks even if they get as high as No. 4 overall in the lottery. The Hawks have a 3.0% chance to land the No. 1 pick and a 9.9% chance to land inside the top three.

Pre-draft takes speak volumes about Hawks’ young players

The Hawks selected Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin with the No. 15 overall pick of the 2023 draft. But the former Michigan Wolverine spent most of the season injured or in the G League. He did flash the two-way ability that made him an appealing prospect in the first place.

Atlanta also has fifth-year big man Onyeka Okongwu in two. He once seemed to be stuck behind Clint Capela. 

He has already made significant strides, adding a perimeter shot to his malleable defense.

Okongwu has also dealt with injuries and is undersized for a full-time center. Adding one of Sarr or Clingan would be a boon for the Hawks. It does bring Okongwu’s role and, ultimately, his future under the microscope.

The Hawks already paid him, signing Okongwu to a four-year, $61.9 million contract extension in October.

Okongwu’s is a similar story for the Hawks.

They have talented players. But many of them spent ample time sidelined with injury this season. But it is also fair to wonder how many difference-makers they have on the current roster after another disappointing campaign.