The Atlanta Hawks secure the NBA lottery victory in a year where there isn’t a definite top pick

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Landy Fields, Atlanta Hawks general manager poses with Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner

The Atlanta Hawks faced low chances, but they ended up with a big win. They won the NBA Draft lottery, getting the No. 1 pick in a year when it’s not clear who the best player is. The general manager, Landry Fields, joked that winning the lottery was his gift to his wife for Mother’s Day.

Despite having only a 3% chance, the Hawks got lucky. They finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 36-46 and lost their last six regular-season games. They were defeated by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the play-in tournament.

Fields was surprised and excited when the Hawks were announced as the winners. The Hawks haven’t won a playoff series since their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2021. They were eliminated in the first round in 2022 and 2023.

Atlanta has some important decisions to make this offseason, including whether to separate Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, their backcourt duo.

Fields can use the No. 1 pick to build the team, but it’s uncertain who will be chosen first, especially since last year’s obvious choice, Victor Wembanyama, went to San Antonio.

NBA Draft

“Our team has been amazing,” Fields said. “There’s a lot of trust and hard work. We’ll stick to our plan and go from there.” Washington, Houston, San Antonio, and Detroit are the other top five picks. The draft will take place on June 26-27 in Brooklyn.

Houston coach Ime Udoka was happy to get the third pick after the Rockets missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year despite finishing with a 41-41 record.

“It was a nice surprise to move up like we did,” he said. “There are many good players available.” Washington and Detroit had the best chances to get the top pick with a 14% chance each. Only four teams have won the lottery with lower odds than Atlanta, and the biggest underdog was Orlando with a 1.52% chance in 1993.

Orlando made a big trade on draft night with Golden State, swapping Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks.

San Antonio made a big move last year by getting Wembanyama, a player who could define a generation. The team, known for picking stars like David Robinson and Tim Duncan, found its next promising big man. Wembanyama had an impressive rookie season, making a mark in NBA history.

Fields disagreed with the idea that this year’s draft class isn’t strong, saying there are potential future All-Stars.

Landy Fields and Mark Tatum sharing a laugh

The top pick might once again be from France, with players like center Alex Sarr or sharpshooting forward Zaccharie Risacher being possibilities. However, it’s not certain. Guards Stephon Castle from UConn and Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham from Kentucky are also expected to be chosen early in the draft.

Sarr, who is 7-foot-1 and 224 pounds, has the size and agility that teams want. He can defend both inside and outside the paint, blocking shots and guarding the perimeter. Known for his strong finishes at the rim, he could benefit from adding more muscle and improving his three-point shooting.

Sarr, whose brother Olivier plays for Oklahoma City, played in Australia’s National Basketball League last season.

Risacher, who grew up in France after being born in Spain, is known for his dynamic shooting skills, although he can be inconsistent. He plays for JL Bourg and is skilled at shooting off screens or taking three-point shots. He’s also known for his strong defense, often tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player.

NBA Draft

Castle decided to enter the draft after just one season at UConn, following the team’s recent NCAA championship victory. At 6-foot-6, he averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Castle often took on the responsibility of guarding the other team’s top perimeter player.

Both Sheppard and Dillingham played only one season in college and came off the bench.

Sheppard, who was recognized as the Southeastern Conference’s top freshman by coaches, was known for his playmaking and shooting skills. He was Kentucky’s third-highest scorer, averaging 12.5 points per game, and led the SEC with 2.5 steals per game, ranking eighth nationally.

Despite starting in only five out of 33 games, he made a significant impact. Dillingham was named the SEC’s top sixth man after averaging 15.2 points and 3.9 assists per game. Kentucky had a successful season, earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament but was unexpectedly eliminated by Oakland in the first round.

Following the tournament, Coach John Calipari left Kentucky after 15 years to join Arkansas.


By Christopher Kamila

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