Atlanta Hawks win NBA draft lottery

CHICAGO (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks entered against slim odds. They came away with their biggest victory in years.

The Hawks won the NBA draft lottery on Sunday, landing the No. 1 pick and a potential key player in a year where there are no clear picks.

“At least I can go home and tell my wife on Mother’s Day, ‘Hey, at least we won the lottery,'” general manager Landry Fields said. “It’s his gift. Yeah, here we go.

The Hawks hit the jackpot despite just 3% odds after finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference at 36-46. They lost their final six regular season games and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the play-in tournament.

“It was a shock,” said Fields, who smiled from ear to ear when deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announced the Hawks were victorious. “When I first saw it wasn’t us between 10 and 12, that pushed us into the top four. I was like, okay, we have a real chance of pulling this thing off. A little surprise, but a lot of enthusiasm.

The Hawks haven’t won a playoff series since a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021. They were eliminated in the first round in 2022 and 2023.

Atlanta has some big decisions to make this offseason, including splitting its backcourt consisting of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Fields can build with the No. 1 pick — assuming he keeps it — although it’s unclear who will be taken first after Victor Wembanyama was the obvious choice for San Antonio last year.

“Our group has been fantastic,” Fields said. “There’s a lot of trust. They did the job. We’re going to kind of lean into our process and go from there.

Washington, Houston, San Antonio and Detroit round out the top five. The draft will take place June 26-27 in Brooklyn.

Houston coach Ime Udoka was excited to get the third pick after the Rockets went 41-41 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

“Pleasant surprise when you progress like we did,” he said. “I feel like there are a lot of qualified candidates.”

Washington and Detroit had the best odds of landing the top pick at 14%. Only four teams have won the lottery with lower odds than Atlanta, with the biggest long shot being Orlando at 1.52% in 1993. The Magic orchestrated a blockbuster draft night trade with Golden State, sending the rights from Chris Webber to the Warriors for the rights to Penny Hardaway as well as three future first-round picks.

San Antonio landed a generational player last year in Wembanyama. The franchise that previously took David Robinson and Tim Duncan first overall got its next big man, and all the Frenchman did was put together one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history. NBA.

Fields disputed the notion that this year’s class is weak, saying there are future All-Stars.

“Every draft class has great players,” he said.

The No. 1 pick could once again come from France, whether it’s center Alex Sarr or forward Zaccharie Risacher, but that’s far from a certainty. UConn guard Stephon Castle and Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham are both expected to be off the board in early selections.

The 7-foot-1, 224-pound Sarr has the size and mobility teams want and can defend the perimeter when he’s not blocking low shots. The 19-year-old from Toulouse is known for his explosiveness around the rim, although he could use a little more muscle. It would also help if he became a more reliable 3-point shooter.

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

Risacher, who was born in Spain and raised in France, is known as a dynamic, albeit streaky, shooter for JL Bourg, whether he’s coming off screens or shooting 3-pointers. He often guards the best player on the opposing team.

Castle joined Andre Drummond in 2012 as UConn’s only one-and-done player when he declared for the draft in April following the Huskies’ most recent NCAA championship run. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists while often drawing the defensive assignment to stop the best player on the opposing perimeter.

Sheppard and Dillingham both came off the bench during their lone college season.

Sheppard, who was voted the best freshman in the Southeastern Conference by the coaches, was one of the league’s best playmakers and perimeter shooters. He was Kentucky’s third-leading scorer with 12.5 points per game and averaged an SEC-best 2.5 steals. ranked eighth nationally, despite only five games out of 33.

Dillingham was voted the SEC’s sixth man after averaging 15.2 and 3.9 assists. Kentucky finished second in the conference and earned the third seed in the NCAA tournament, before being eliminated by Oakland in the round of 16. Coach John Calipari then left after 15 years for Arkansas.