Busting Brackets

3 players who could transform the Atlanta Hawks franchise with the No. 1 pick

The Atlanta Hawks lucked into the first overall pick in the most disappointing NBA Draft in years. However, there are still multiple prospects who could transform their roster this offseason, including two from the National Champion UConn Huskies.
Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields (right)
Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields (right) / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks went into Sunday’s NBA Draft Lottery with the 10th-best odds to walk away with the No. 1 overall pick, but luck was on Atlanta’s side. The Hawks converted on their three percent chance, but unfortunately hold the first pick in what many scouts and NBA evaluators are calling the worst draft since 2013 when Anthony Bennett went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

There are talented players to be had this summer, though many are from Europe and very few at the top of the class came through college basketball last season. Players like Dalton Knecht, Zach Edey, Reed Sheppard, and Rob Dillingham are household names to college basketball fans, but will likely only amount to high-end role players, even as first-round picks. 

The Atlanta Hawks have floundered since trading assets away to San Antonio for Dejounte Murray. He and Trae Young haven’t clicked on the court. Young is only approaching his age 26 season, but it’s been four years since he carried the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals, so Atlanta’s front office and general manager Landry Fields could view this pick as an opportunity to reset and transform the roster.

The No. 1 pick brings Atlanta plenty of options they didn’t expect to have this offseason. This pick can allow them to trade both Young and Murray to jumpstart a rebuild, or they can add around the group that’s already in place and make a run with Young and a young core. 

Age: 19. Stephon Castle, SG/SF. Stephon Castle, SG/SF. 892. . player. Stephon Castle. . 6'6" 215 lbs. 3

The UConn Huskies were absolutely loaded last season with a veteran-laden roster, but they wouldn’t have won the National Championship, at least not so easily, without Stephon Castle’s stellar freshman year. Castle averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists, but was most important on the defensive end of the floor. 

Castle was a lock-down defender on wings and guard, something Atlanta desperately needs to pair with Trae Young, especially if Murray is no longer in the team’s plans. Castle isn’t the most elite athlete, but his long arms, positional strength, and incredible effort translated to elite perimeter defense last season, even if a few too many fouls accompanied it. 

On offense, Castle is a quality ball-handler who could play well off of Trae Young if his jump shot develops. Last season, he knocked down just 26.7% of his 2.2 three-pointers a game, but his shot certainly isn’t broken. Castle is the exact type of big, defensive-minded wing that Atlanta should put next to Trae Young, and unlike Murray, he’s very capable of playing without the ball in his hands.

6'8" 205 lbs. Ron Holland. . Ron Holland, SF. Ron Holland, SF. player. 125. . Age: 18. 2

Ron Holland was one of the most productive players to go through the G-League Ignite program before he injured his thumb and ended his season. As an 18-year-old, he averaged 19.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists across 14 games. There is skepticism about his height and a chance he measures at about 6-foot-6, but regardless, he will be a wing-creator with shot-making ability and defensive effort. 

The problem for Holland is his efficiency, he shot just 44.3% from the field and 24.0% from three. His decision-making was very questionable and early in the season he even posted an 11-turnover game for Ignite. 

So, why would Atlanta be interested in an inefficient teenager who is going to need a lot of time and leeway to develop into the best version of himself as a player? Well, the Hawks would likely only do it if the plan was to trade Trae Young. If the Hawks want a full rebuild, then Holland, who is nine months younger than Stephon Castle is the best option at No. 1. He may never be the best player on a championship roster, but he has enough talent to justify taking the team in a new direction without Young. 

1. player. 892. . . 7'2" 280 lbs. Donovan Clingan, C. Donovan Clingan, C. Donovan Clingan. Age: 20

Now this plan is the one designed to fully optimize Trae Young and Clingan would only be an option at No. 1 if Atlanta believes that Trae can be the best player on a title contender because Clingan will never be that. 

However, what Donovan Clingan will be is a connective piece on offense that allows Young to explore playing without the ball in his hands, a real lob threat on rim runs, and an elite defensive rim protector in drop coverage, something Quin Snyder has quite a bit of familiarity with. 

Clingan rose up draft boards with his dominant performances in the NCAA Tournament, not just battling with Zach Edey, but registering five blocks against Illinois in the Elite Eight and four against Alabama in the Final Four. However, his best trait for Atlanta is his passing. UConn perfected intricate offensive actions that all hinged on Clingan’s ability as a decision-maker and it turned the Huskies into an offensive juggernaut. 

Early in his career, Young drew blasphemous comparisons to Steph Curry. Not only is Young a markedly worse shooter from three, but he lacks Curry’s propensity to give the ball up and torture defenders who are forced to chase him around screens, using his immense shot gravity to open everything up on that end. Through dribble hand-offs and off-ball actions, Clingan can start to become Young’s Draymond Green, to belabor the unfair association.

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