After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Atlanta Hawks struggled to replicate their success in the 2021-22 NBA season. Trae Young continued his remarkable play and was selected as a starter in the NBA All-Star Game for the second time in his career, but the problems began with the Hawks’ role players thanks to numerous injuries and inconsistent play. While Atlanta made it through the play-in tournament with a pair of wins, the final result of the season was a five-game loss to the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round and the No. 16 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Addressing their main needs like a legitimate sidekick to Trae Young will be difficult to find at this juncture of the draft, but the Hawks could still find a gem who is not a household name at the collegiate level. As they cannot predict the outcome of the first 15 picks, choosing the best available talent would be the advisable move for Atlanta’s front office.
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Best options for Hawks at No. 16 in 2022 NBA Draft
Hawks fans may believe that drafting a point guard to relieve Trae Young would not be an ideal move for the roster. Atlanta must realize that Young cannot solely be the floor general and playmaker in the rotation. When the Heat blitzed Young in the playoffs, they could have used a guard like TyTy Washington to aid Trae Young in breaking down the phenomenal Miami defense.
Washington can play any of the guard positions with the impeccable combination of his shooting and passing prowess. In his first few seasons with the Hawks, he would likely play behind Young, but there could be instances in which coach Nate McMillan would play two guards and not have a disadvantage on the defensive end of the floor. Overall, having Washington in the fold would be a definite upgrade over Delon Wright, Lou Williams and Sharife Cooper.
The foundational pieces of the Hawks have been set in stone over the past two seasons. The critical pieces that must be added are role players who are willing to do the dirty work and provide hustle on every possession. LSU’s Tari Eason fits the billing as an athletic and versatile wing who could play behind De’Andre Hunter in the rotation.
In his college days, Eason was a spectacular defender with the upside to being fantastic at the professional level as well. One of the main weaknesses of the Hawks was their consistent defensive production every night. Hunter was one of the few who brought the effort and grit on the defensive end every possession, and adding Eason to the lineup would give them another option to bolster their defensive capabilities.
An intriguing but relatively unknown prospect from Europe, Nikola Jovic is a Serbian who has immense upside at the NBA level. There is always the calculated risk of drafting a European player in an American league, but guys like Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic have proven that the European style of play can fit perfectly in the NBA. Jovic is a big man at 6-foot-10 with guard-like skills who can shoot well from the outside.
Player development and gradual progress are critical for Jovic because he still has raw talent, but it has been proven that the intangibles and fundamentals of European players are tremendous. His repertoire varies from the frontcourt rotation of John Collins and Clint Capela, so taking a chance on a young forward like Jovic must be heavily considered by the organization. Furthermore, he would not take away touches from Trae Young or John Collins because he has proven to be an effective off-ball cutter as well.