Isaac Okoro and Onyeka Okongwu are a match for the Atlanta Hawks

Illustration by Monique Rojas | The Signal

The Atlanta Hawks received the sixth overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, a disappointment to many fans. 

Atlanta currently has five players age 22 or younger who were drafted in the past few seasons. The team has an infusion of youth ready to be molded into great players as time progresses. So, what should the Hawks do? 

A great pick here would be Isaac Okoro, if he is still on the board. ESPN NBA draft expert Mike Schmitz believes Okoro “[has] explosiveness to wreak transition havoc alongside Trae Young, but he’s arguably the best defender in the draft.”

Trae Young had a great second season for Atlanta, averaging 29.6 points and 9.3 assists, both top five in the league. In his third season, teams will bring more help on defense, leading Young to pass out of those situations and make big plays. 

Cam Reddish emerged as a key two-way player toward the end of last season, and the backcourt pairing off the bench would be a solid one. It would take a bit of time for Okoro to come into his own, but he is already a great slasher and shot creator, two essential qualities in any young player. 

In his lone year at Auburn, he thrived in the SEC, recognized as an All-Conference and All-Defense player. He also averaged 12.9 points and shot 50% from the field, an efficient mark for a guard at any level. 

Okoro still has to improve his outside shooting, especially from the three (29% at Auburn), but many players add a perimeter shot to their game with an NBA coaching staff. Okoro has great potential to be a staple in Lloyd Pierce’s young team.

On the other hand, the Hawks have an aging veteran backing up Clint Capela at center in Dewayne Dedmon. If still available, former USC forward Onyeka Okongwu would be the ideal player.

In his lone season with the Trojans, Okongwu averaged 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. His 6-foot, 9-inch and 245-pound frame would allow the Hawks to incorporate a potential small-ball lineup. His defense and versatility will only improve as he progresses through the NBA. 

Okongwu is an excellent rim-protecting big who can also slash to the rim and convert easy opportunities. In a continually changing league, these qualities are still important

In the same piece as Schmitz, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony also spoke highly of Okongwu, saying the athletic forward “has elite timing as a shot-blocker and projects as a switch-all pick-and-roll defender with considerable offensive upside thanks to his excellent touch, hands and feel.”

Whatever the Hawks choose to do with the sixth overall pick, they will not go wrong picking either Okoro or Okongwu.