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Chaotic East Coast Squad Can Calm Storm With No. 1 Pick

Los Angeles Lakers star warms up ahead of game against Atlanta Hawks

With the 2024 NBA Draft Lottery now in the books, the Atlanta Hawks emerged as the biggest winner of the day, landing the No. 1 overall pick after going 36-46 in the regular season.

As they prepare for a pivotal offseason, several highly intriguing scenarios have emerged for the Hawks.

Chaotic Hawks Can Calm Storm With No. 1 Pick

The Hawks are among the more popular franchises in NBA history. Though they’ve never won an NBA championship, they always seem to have a fan favorite somewhere on the roster.

In the 1970s, Atlanta had Hall of Famers like Pete Maravich, Lou Hudson, and Walt Bellamy. In the 1980s, nine-time All-Star Dominique Wilkins stole the show. The next decade saw four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dikembe Mutombo, as the headliner. By the time that Joe Johnson was the man, the Hawks already had a relatively rich history.

Now led by Trae Young, Atlanta has another truly elite franchise player. However, the Hawks haven’t been able to enjoy their fortune for the past couple of seasons.

Troubles in Paradise

For all of Young’s talent, Atlanta has been inconsistent with regard to reaching the playoffs. In the six seasons since he’s been drafted, the Hawks have had just three postseason appearances. Of those three playoff runs, they only made it past the First Round once.

Indeed, it takes time to build a true contender. Yet, that process has been undermined by constant upheaval, with Atlanta now on their third head coach since drafting Young. To that point, despite the way Young bristles at the coach-killer label, he earned it. Correlation isn’t causation but there’s been a curious connection between Young’s coaches being fired and rumors about them getting on his bad side.

On the court, Young’s approach to both ends has been questioned. Offensively, he’s largely been resistant to the idea of empowering his teammates to attack, often taking matters into his own hands. Defensively, Young’s competitiveness rarely showed, hopeful scorers getting past him with ease.

This season, Young began to turn over a new leaf, sacrificing touches and playing aggressively on defense. Frankly, it may be too little, too late. However, he’s such a talented scorer and facilitator that it leaves the door open for Dejounte Murray to be traded instead.

Murray isn’t faultless in Atlanta’s struggles, as his on-ball defense leaves a lot to be desired. Furthermore, as a natural lead guard, he’s an unnatural fit beside Young in the backcourt. Where the Hawks should have an off-ball outlet, they have an on-ball playmaker. Yet, without factoring Young into the equation, he’s a great fit for Atlanta. He’s highly productive, mature, and a locker room leader.

It’s for those same reasons that Murray could be easier to trade than Young.

LeBron James to ATL?

Now that the Hawks have the No. 1 pick, they can package one of Murray and Young with it, reshuffling their rotation with a star addition. Among the teams that could be the most motivated to make that deal, the Los Angeles Lakers are the most intriguing.

But if the Hawks look to make a deal with the Lakers, forget about Austin Reaves. A package that includes the first overall pick and Young may be able to get LeBron James himself. Seriously.

The 39-year-old is nearing the end of his career, with his agent believing he has two or three seasons left. He’s also able to leave L.A. between this summer and next, as he has player option on his contract for 2024-25. With him seriously considering leaving the Lakers after another strenuous season, L.A. may be willing to move him in the right deal. A three-time All-Star who hasn’t entered his prime and the top pick in the upcoming draft might just be the right deal.

Of course, many will wonder if it’s the right deal for Atlanta. However, even at his advanced age, he’s been just as productive as Young. He’s also one of the most successful players in NBA history, winning four NBA championships and four MVPs.

James leading a core that includes Murray, Jalen Johnson, and Bogdan Bogdanovic may not be particularly exciting. Yet, that’s because those players aren’t household names, not because they aren’t pretty talented. In fact, the trio averaged 55.4 points per game combined last season. If the Hawks keep De’Andre Hunter as a sixth man, that’s another player 15-plus points per game.

Replace Young with James and the Hawks’ top-five scorers will have averaged 96.7 points per game in 2023-24. That’s what Atlanta’s current top-five scorers averaged last season on their way to averaging the fifth-most points in the NBA (118.3).

Keeping the No. 1 Pick

Should the Hawks keep the No. 1 pick, they have the opportunity to fix their backcourt or frontcourt.

Perth center Alexandre Sarr is capable of switching onto perimeter players like Onyeka Okongwu and has even better length than even Clint Capela. Colorado swingman Cody Williams is a 3-and-D wing that fits alongside Young or Murray. More importantly, he’s a multipositional defender that can guard the opponent’s best perimeter player. JL Bourg stretch forward Zaccharie Risacher is a knockdown shooter, an attractive quality for a team that used Saddiq Bey much in that same way. Bey, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in March, will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Yet, G League Ignite forward Ron Holland may have the highest upside of any lottery prospect. Effective on both ends of the floor, Holland is a skilled and athletic floor-raiser whose motor allows him to make an impact even when his number isn’t being called. Frankly, he doesn’t fit a specific Hawks need. However, the goal for any team with the No. 1 pick is to get a potential go-to scorer and two-way playmaker. Holland checks those boxes.


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