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Atlanta Hawks Summer League Preview

Atlanta Hawks Summer League Preview

The Atlanta Hawks are preparing for an action-packed summer in Las Vegas this month. This will be their 13th summer in Las Vegas, and the Hawks will be under scrutiny due to Zaccharie Risacher’s status as the No. 1 overall pick.

He’s arguably one of the most overlooked first-round picks in recent memory, and that’s because he played overseas rather than at an American college. Casual fans haven’t had a chance to see him play and question his abilities. Now he can prove himself to the general public by leading a team of young talent into the Nevada desert.

Alongside Risacher, fellow rookie Nikola Djurisic will gain valuable experience, and sophomore Kobe Bufkin will show his progress. Mouhamed Gueye is considered a forward. But at 6’2″, his minutes as a starting center could be good for his development. During his rookie campaign in Summer League last year, he shone with his creative style of play. The rest of the roster is made up of players from the Hawks’ G-League side, the College Park Skyhawks, including Skyhawks star Jordin Bowden.

Hawks assistant coach Ronald Nored will lead the team, marking his third time coaching a Summer League team. Nored was the head coach of the Long Island Nets before taking assistant coaching positions with the Charlotte Hornets from 2018-21 and the Indiana Pacers from 2021-23 before joining Quin Snyder in Atlanta.

His resume makes him a trusted candidate to lead the young Hawks to success on the summer circuit.

NBA matchmakers have given the Hawks plenty of exciting matchups, starting with their season opener against the Washington Wizards on July 12. This was a strategic setup, as the masses want to see the top two picks in the NBA draft face off, especially after the drama of the draft. Alex Sarr refused to work out for the Hawks, and some Hawks fans still think he would have been a better fit for the franchise.

Friday could be the start of a potential rivalry between the two teams, and the NBA wants the world to witness it. Due to the intrigue, it’s the first game of an ESPN doubleheader, and fans are still debating who has the most potential. Both teams will be under equal pressure to influence their franchises, and their Summer League matchup will directly compare talent.

Their next match will be against the San Antonio Spurs on July 14, but Victor Wembanyama will not participate due to his obligations to the French national team.

Three days later, on July 17, they will face Bronny James and the Los Angeles Lakers on the West Coast. James will be joined by Tennessee star Dalton Knecht, selected 17th overall in the draft. Both players have struggled so far in their Summer League campaigns, but their abilities cannot be underestimated.

The Hawks’ final game will be on July 19 against the Chicago Bulls. The matchup will pit Risacher against 11th overall pick Matas Buzelis. Buzelis challenged Risacher to a one-on-one match during an interview with BasketNews’ Donatas Urbonas in March.

Buzelis spoke about his skills compared to Risacher’s in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic in June.

Asked if he thought Risacher was dodging his challenge, Buzelis told Charania: “I think everybody misunderstood when I said that. I respect Zach as a player. Of course, he’s a great player. He’s just doesn’t want to see me. I’m just going to be honest with everyone.

The top draft prospects don’t play the entire Summer League schedule, but there’s no denying the appeal of seeing them go head-to-head. Buzelis knew Rischaer could be drafted relatively high, but he always thought he was the better player.

“I definitely feel like I’m the No. 1 pick. I know I’ve worked hard. I know this draft is wide open and everybody’s trying to fight for it,” Buzelis told Charania. “That’s why I started challenging him. Why not? Let’s start a competition. Let’s try to get our hands dirty, you know what I mean?”

If the Hawks win all their games, they will advance to the Summer League playoffs.

The franchise has never won a Summer League championship, and that would give the young core immense confidence heading into the season.