Hawks 2020 Pre-Draft Preview

The Hawks could go in a lot of directions with the sixth overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft
Travis Schlenk Lloyd Pierce Tony Ressler
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

By KL Chouinard (@KLChouinard)

The Atlanta Hawks could go in a lot of directions with the sixth overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Hawks, who finished last season with a 20-47, will have the chance to make an upgrade to the roster. At the same time, the roster doesn't have one pressing, specific need. With Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in the backcourt, DeAndre' Hunter and Cam Reddish on the wing, and John Collins and Clint Capela up front, the Hawks have talented young players on all sides of the rotation.

Even if the Hawks did have a glaring need, President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk would likely still tend toward taking the best player available. On more than one occasion, Schlenk has noted that he likes using the draft to build the talent base and free agency to fill specific positional needs. 

So with all of that stuff in mind, who will the Hawks pick Wednesday night? A lot will depend on who gets picked above them and who falls through.

One possibility is Onyeka Okongwu, a 6-foot-9 big from USC. After scoring 16.2 points per game in his freshman season, Okongwu is headed to the NBA with a combination of footwork, strength and knowledge that should help him thrive as a defender of the paint. If the Hawks prize the ability to shapeshift through multiple styles of pick-and-roll defense, whether it's hedging or switching or dropping, Okongwu has the potential to succeed in all of them. To wit: he blocked 2.7 shots per game last season. He also shot 72 percent from the free throw line. That's a rare combination and one that should springboard him to a long NBA career.  

If Deni Avidja gets past the first five picks, the 6-foot-9 small forward is another prime candidate. The 2020 Israeli League MVP has the ideal passing and driving skills to slot in as a secondary playmaker next to Trae Young. Like Okongwu, Avidja has exceptional physical strength for a 19-year-old kid, and he used it last season to help Maccabi Tel Aviv win the Israeli League Final Four. If his shooting touch catches up to his feel for the game, Avidja will prosper in the NBA. 

Of course, it is quite possible that Okongwu and Avidja are off the board by the time the Hawks pick. If that is the case, then it may be that Killian Hayes falls through. A 6-foot-5 lefty, Hayes jumps off the screen as a player who looks like he belongs in the NBA right now even at the tender age of 18. Hayes has the footwork to create his own shot in any one-on-one situation and the vision to find open teammates when defenses overplay him. Hayes sports some of the same combo guard flair that Manu Ginobili had; if Manu could play next to Tony Parker for over a decade, then Hayes should be able to slot in next to Trae Young quite nicely. The recipe? Stagger their minutes, share the workload and thrive down the stretch late in the fourth quarter. 

Devin Vassell averaged 21.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee before heading to Florida State for two seasons. The 6-foot-7 swingman seems to have everything that an NBA team could want with respect to playing off the ball. He shot over 40 percent from three last season, he cuts decisively, and his instincts as a help defender are off the charts. He's no slouch defending on the ball, either. Slot him in next to Reddish and Hunter, and the Hawks will have a full complement of young, rangy defenders to throw at teams. 

This list is not comprehensive. The full list of potential candidates whom the Hawks could pick is long and extends beyond these four players, but one other possibility that makes it even longer is that the Hawks could trade the pick. Schlenk has made major trade-night moves in two of his three drafts. If he spots a player that he likes in a different draft spot, he could readily make a move to slide up or down the draft board with a well-timed transaction.

If all of that excitement isn't enough to quench your draft thirst, keep in mind that the Hawks also hold the rights to a pick in the second round, number 50 overall. Let the fun begin!


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