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NBA mock draft: Hawks soar for Sarr in post-lottery landscape

Julian Catalfo / theScore

Depending on who you ask, the draft lottery format can either amount to a surprising blessing or a fateful stroke of bad fortune.

For the Atlanta Hawks - who had only a 3% chance at securing the No. 1 pick - Monday's 2024 NBA Draft Lottery offered an unlikely opportunity. For the Detroit Pistons - who, despite finishing with the league's worst record for a third successive season, again missed out on top billing - it was anything but.

With the order of the 14 lottery picks and the remaining field now established ahead of the two-day draft scheduled to start on June 26, here's a look at how things could shake out in consideration of team-specific needs:

Atlanta's Trae Young-led core has clearly plateaued in recent years, and the backcourt pairing with Dejounte Murray failed miserably. Though Young is an offensive dynamo with deep range and elite passing skills, his lack of size defensively puts the rest of the team at a disadvantage. That's where Sarr comes in.

Sarr has the rare combination of elite length (7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan) and above-average mobility for a center. Sarr's ability to clean up for Young's defensive mistakes as a rim-protector while also being able to handle switches onto smaller ball-handlers allows for more versatility on that end than with Clint Capela. If Sarr's perimeter jumper continues to grow, he could serve a role similar to Jaren Jackson Jr. on the Memphis Grizzlies as the perfect complement to a high-usage point guard.

One pick won't fill all of the holes on the Wizards' roster, but taking Clingan would address multiple needs. Washington had the third-worst defensive efficiency and allowed the most points in the paint per contest last season. The UConn product was among the top rim-protectors in college basketball, ranking sixth in the NCAA in block percentage (11.4%) and eighth in swats (2.5 per contest).

Clingan alters shots around the basket with his size and 7-foot-7 wingspan. The 7-foot-2 center should thrive in drop coverage as he frequently showed great mobility when switched onto guards. With Marvin Bagley currently penciled in as the starting center, the Wizards could certainly use an upgrade and long-term solution in the middle.

Risacher may earn consideration for the No. 1 overall pick. The 6-foot-10 forward is one of the youngest players in this year's draft class and has the potential to be an effective two-way presence. He's got the mobility and length to defend guards and wings, good ball-handling skills for his size, playmaking chops, and continues to improve his outside stroke.

Houston is playing with house money, having acquired this pick from the Brooklyn Nets as part of the James Harden trade. The Rockets' front office could opt for a more NBA-ready prospect, but it's unlikely they'll be selecting this high next year. Rolling the dice on Risacher's upside could pay off in the long run.

Coming off a freshman season in which he led all of college basketball shooting a ridiculous 52.1% from 3-point range on 144 attempts, Sheppard is tailor-made to provide much-needed gravity around rising superstar Victor Wembanyama on the offensive end. With the Spurs finishing third-last league-wide in percentage from distance, Sheppard immediately fills a need.

Sheppard would have made a real push for the No. 1 pick if he wasn't just 6-foot-2 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan. But with the biggest player in the league in Wembanyama roaming defensively, the Spurs are the team best positioned to hide Sheppard's lack of size while benefiting greatly from his strengths. Plus, with his improving point-guard skills, great defensive instincts, and combine-best vertical leap, Sheppard's role could grow beyond elite spot-up shooter.

Buzelis hurt his draft stock this season with an inefficient campaign on an overmatched G League Ignite team, but his blend of elite size on the wing with his offensive upside still projects him as one of the better prospects in the class.

After such a dreadful season, the Pistons may feel pressure to take a more surefire contributor on the wing, especially given Ausar Thompson still needs some seasoning to reach his expected potential. A forward duo of Thompson and Buzelis would be two players who shot under 30% from deep at their respective levels last season. But for a team desperate to climb out of the basement, taking a skilled combo forward could be their best chance at a ticket up the standings.

While Castle filled in nicely as the fifth option on the back-to-back national champions, he arguably has the highest ceiling among UConn's starting five. The 6-foot-6 guard provided a glimpse of his all-around package in the Huskies' Final Four win over Alabama, posting up smaller guards, creating for his teammates, and playing suffocating defense on Crimson Tide star Mark Sears.

Charlotte could use a secondary ball-handler alongside LaMelo Ball who can facilitate the offense when the former All-Star sits. The Hornets finished 25th and 28th in assists and offensive efficiency, respectively, last season and would greatly benefit from Castle's versatile skill set.

The Blazers have their long-term backcourt figured out, but everything else remains a big question mark. Portland's front office values youth and athleticism in the draft, and the 18-year-old Holland checks both boxes as well as anyone in the field. He's more of a tweener forward at just 6-foot-6 but plays much bigger with long arms.

Holland's jumper is the major swing skill here. If he continues to shoot 24% from three, he'll be an energy defender who's able to run the break in transition and wreak havoc in the dunker spot. If the jumper comes around, he projects as a player in the Jaylen Brown mold with his rugged style and nose for the basketball, along with solid rebounding and passing chops.

The Spurs could target Topic with the No. 4 pick, but if they choose the better shooter in Sheppard, the Serbian could fall in their laps with their second pick, given teams picking Nos. 5-7 have their respective point guards of the future already on the roster. Topic is a massive lead guard at 6-foot-6 who sees the floor well and plays under control.

Topic is a master in the pick-and-roll and, given the Spurs' lack of a true floor general, could create a whole new dynamic for Wembanyama's game. Like Sheppard, Topic has questions defensively, but his size will allow him to guard up positions, and the pair could see minutes together in offensive-minded lineups.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Memphis deals this pick for a more established veteran. However, in the event the Grizzlies keep the selection, they'll almost certainly be seeking a player who can help them win now. Knecht is a three-level scorer who could immediately inject life into the Grizzlies' offense.

Few players displayed better shot-making than the 6-foot-6 guard did last season. The Tennessee standout is a pull-up threat who can shoot off the dribble and make baskets coming off movement. He had eight 30-point performances during the 2023-24 campaign, including a 40-point explosion versus Kentucky. Knecht made 38.3% of his threes in college and would undoubtedly bolster a Memphis squad that finished in the NBA's bottom third in 3-point percentage in each of the last two seasons.

Walter had an up-and-down freshman year at Baylor, averaging a team-high 14.5 points but shooting only 37.6% from the field. While the McDonald's All-American struggled with his efficiency as the season progressed, the Bears guard's clean shooting mechanics and ability to shoot off screens bodes well for the next level.

Walter also competes hard on the defensive end. He's willing to put his body on the line for charges and apply full-court pressure on opposing ball-handlers. Utah finished dead last in defensive efficiency last season and doesn't really have a stopper on the perimeter.

As the Bulls begin to reshape their backcourt around rising scorer Coby White, a tremendous shooter in McCain could make sense as a partner. McCain is great from long range off the catch (42.1% at Duke) and off the dribble (37%) and should be able to complement White's array of floaters and isolation scoring.

The issue here is defense, where White is still a work in progress. McCain brings disadvantageous size at just 6-foot-2 without great length. He's a sturdy athlete with strength and a knack for steals and crashing the glass, but he isn't big or athletic enough to make up for others' mistakes.

It'll be hard for the Thunder to pass on Cody, especially with the intel they're likely receiving from his brother and Oklahoma City wing Jalen Williams. Sam Presti hasn't been afraid to take a swing in previous drafts, and the Thunder have the luxury to be a bit more patient with him than other teams.

Cody provides size on the wing, passing ability, and can drive all the way to the rim. The 6-foot-8 forward made 41.5% of his threes last season in a limited sample. With his length and high motor, he's got the potential to be a multi-positional defender in the NBA.

Dillingham blends an elite strength of on-ball shot creation with an extreme weakness as an undersized and physically unimposing guard with limited defensive skills. While he needs to work on his rim finishing, his shiftiness with the ball in his hands and ability to finish plays with pull-up jumpers or floaters make him the ideal on-ball guard off the bench. He has the potential to average 15-to-20 points without having to take on a giant defensive assignment.

With the Kings in grave danger of losing Sixth Man of the Year finalist Malik Monk in free agency, Dillingham can seamlessly fill his role as high-scoring up-tempo guard off the pine, bringing an injection of offense either alongside or replacing star point guard De'Aaron Fox.

Carter had a breakout junior year for Providence, averaging 19.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 steals, and one block across 33 appearances in 2023-24. He earned Big East Player of the Year honors and was a semifinalist for National Defensive Player of the Year.

Carter's ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game should help him earn a role quickly. The Blazers' defense hasn't improved much during the Chauncey Billups era. Adding Carter's on-ball aggression and off-ball instincts to the fold would give Portland some much-needed tenacity.

Collier was ESPN's No. 1 recruit in last season's high school class, but up-and-down play for a wildly disappointing USC squad has raised a lot of questions about his jumper and defensive effort. The defense is an easy fix in the Heat's famous culture, and Collier showed signs of improvement late in the year. But if he can't improve from 67% at the free-throw line and 33.8% from deep, then his value as a physical, oversized guard is diminished.

As a jumbo forward with great mobility, defensive versatility, and a consistent catch-and-shoot jumper, Da Silva is everything teams look for in a complementary power forward in today's NBA. With the 76ers' forward spot looking iffy after a poor postseason from Tobias Harris, Da Silva's strengths off the ball could make him a much better fit alongside Joel Embiid. And with increased on-ball reps, he could reach the ceiling of a stretch-four like Kyle Kuzma.

After back-to-back Player of the Year awards and one of the greatest careers in college basketball history, there's endless talk about how the 7-foot-4 Edey fits in today's NBA. Edey's footspeed at his gargantuan size will always make him a defensive liability, but elite touch down low and the prospect of adding the jumper he showcased at the combine make him a tantalizing offensive big man. With the Lakers looking to find every avenue to win now with an aging LeBron James, Edey's sheer production could be part of the solution.

As the Magic continue to figure out how to optimize former No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero, drafting a do-it-all frontcourt mate in Filipowski could be beneficial. A true 7-footer with the ability to hit threes, score off the dribble, and defend the rim, Filipowski and Banchero combine to check off nearly every box teams seek from their frontcourt. With Wendell Carter Jr. on an affordable deal, the Magic can mix and match him with Filipowski in Year 1.

With a bunch of win-now teams picking in succession, the Raptors end up with one of the best raw prospects in the field with Salaun. The super-long 6-foot-9 wing with terrific mobility screams upper-tier 3-and-D wing and has the size and defensive versatility that Toronto has long craved. As one of the few players still in action - playing in the French playoffs - Salaun has the chance to blow past this projection by the time the draft rolls around.

As demonstrated in their recent playoff series loss to the Celtics, the Cavaliers are in dire need of complementary pieces with multiple strengths, beyond the level of specialist. Tyson flashed point forward potential as a 6-foot-6, wing-sized prospect at Cal this season while also being a 37.2% 3-point shooter on 250 career attempts. He isn't the greatest athlete in the world, but he can still turn himself into a plus defender.

Missi's role in the NBA is already defined: He's a long, athletic rim-runner on offense and a shot-blocker with decent mobility on the other end. Much like players in the mold of Clint Capela or Dereck Lively, Missi can make an impact in the right situation but can't be trusted to make plays with the ball. As Zion Williamson continues to grow as a passer, his ability to make high-low reads for Missi lob dunks could be a nice wrinkle to the Pelicans' offense.

Phoenix is in desperate need of NBA-ready talent to help its Big Three amid a massive salary-cap crunch. If the Suns keep this pick, Holmes' mature game gives them a different look than the current big men on the roster, with a combination of shooting and defensive versatility, plus promising passing chops.

Smith still needs lots of development to become an NBA regular, but his potential comes as a stretch-big with great defensive size and a consistent jumper for his position. Learning under Giannis Antetokounmpo while playing spot minutes as Brook Lopez's understudy is as beneficial a situation for Smith as anywhere in the league. While Milwaukee may look for a win-now player, its lack of future prospects may lead the team to take a swing.

It's long been known that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau plays his starters heavy minutes and doesn't often trust rookies, so with back-to-back first-rounders, look for New York to take two different approaches. Carrington is one of the youngest players in the draft and needs to put on significant weight, but his ability to play both on and off the ball with an excellent dribble jumper could help him become a scoring machine in time.

While Carrington is more of a project, McCullar is one of the most seasoned college veterans in this draft and could contribute to the Knicks immediately. McCullar does a little bit of everything with wing size but is most known for his terrific perimeter defense. If he can blend his underrated passing skill with an improving jumper that reached a career-high 34% this season, McCullar's potential is similar to that of current Knicks forward Josh Hart.

Even with Bilal Coulibaly registering a solid rookie campaign, and the No. 2 pick in tow, the rebuilding Wizards should take big swings at high-upside prospects. Klintman's status as a jumbo-sized wing with an effective 3-pointer and perimeter skills make him a clear candidate to put in work with the team's development system. If he can put on weight and grow with on-ball reps in the G League, this pick could pay major dividends.

A former elite high school prospect, Sallis broke out as a junior at Wake Forest with fantastic 49/41/78 shooting splits while playing both on and off the ball. At minimum, Sallis projects as a useful scorer off the bench with good size for a two-guard. However, if he can grow his playmaking skills to pair with his excellent dribble jumper, he has an outside shot at becoming the Timberwolves' long-term point guard with Mike Conley's days dwindling.

Ware may have had the best combine of any first-round prospect, with the monster big man standing at 7-feet with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and ranking in the top three amongst centers in the lane agility, shuttle run, and standing vertical tests. If Ware has the athleticism to hang with guards on the perimeter, and his 42.5% 3-point mark on limited attempts is for real, Ware could be an unfair fit next to three-time MVP Nikola Jokic and his masterful passing.

Few saw George as a one-and-done prospect this season coming over from Switzerland, but he tantalized scouts as an off-ball piece on a veteran Miami team, hitting 40.8% of his 130 threes while flashing defensive tools as a big wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. George isn't quite as athletic as similar prospects like Salaun and Klintman, but scouts may prefer his stability as someone who's already proven he can succeed in the 3-and-D role.

At just 5-foot-10, Sears measured as the shortest player at the combine by multiple inches, but there's no questioning his ability as an elite offensive guard. Sears joined Buddy Hield and Doug McDermott as the only players in modern college history to average over 21 points per game while hitting at least 90 threes and 50% of his field goals. Sears was the only one of the three to add four assists per game. With Boston constantly finding new ways to add wrinkles to its offense, betting on Sears' skills makes sense in this spot.

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