The Atlanta Hawks are still undecided at the very top of the 2024 NBA Draft. As general manager Landry Fields and company continue analyzing prospects leading up to June 26th, though, one player has already emerged a front office favorite. Whether Atlanta will take Donovan Clingan at all let alone select him at No. 1 overall, though, remains to be seen.

The former Connecticut big man “impressed” Hawks brass in a recent workout, per Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, making him a viable candidate for Atlanta whether the team keeps the first pick or trades down a few spots in the lottery. The Hawks also have an interest in G League Ignite forward Matas Buzelis, according to The Ringer.

“If the Hawks trade down, UConn center Donovan Clingan could be their target after he impressed the team in a private workout last week. Even if the Hawks stay put, Clingan could still be their first choice, with G League Ignite forward Matas Buzelis being a dark horse candidate.”

Further intel on Clingan potentially being drafted by Atlanta should come as no surprise. ClutchPoints' Brett Siegel also reported earlier this week the Hawks had done their diligence on the 7'2 rim-protector, sparking speculation the team selects him in a trade-down scenario.

“UConn's Donovan Clingan is a player the Hawks have done their research on in recent weeks, leading to the belief that the Hawks are open to the idea of moving down a few spots.”

Clingan averaged 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on gaudy 63.9% shooting in just 22.6 minutes per game last season, leading the Huskies to their second consecutive national title. He earned Honorable Mention All-American honors for his efforts after making the Big East All-Freshman Team during his first season in Storrs.

Donovan Clingan's fit with Hawks

Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) celebrates defeating the Purdue Boilermakers in the national championship game of the Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at State Farm Stadium
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta enters the offseason at a critical inflection point. After disappointing with 36-46 record and failing to advance past the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, the awkward backcourt partnership between Trae Young and Dejounte Murray has never seemed more likely to end.

Which talented guard the Hawks will retain is anyone's guess, however, and there's no guaranteeing either player will be on the roster come training camp in late September. In wake of vaulting up nine spots to win the lottery, might now be the perfect time Atlanta to trade both Young and Murray, initiating a full-scale rebuild?

Either way, the Hawks would surely make some related roster moves if they indeed end up with Clingan on draft night. He's a traditional five in every sense of the term, likely limited to playing drop coverage defensively and scoring around the rim on the other end. Longtime starting center Clint Capela has heard his name in trade rumors for years. There's no sense in holding onto him with Clingan in the fold, especially because Atlanta locked up 2020 lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu on a reasonable, long-term extension last October.

Okongwu's defensive versatility and nascent three-point range could allow coach Quin Snyder to deploy him alongside Clingan up front in certain lineups. Big-picture, however, a starting frontcourt of breakout forward Jalen Johnson and Clingan would surely represent the Hawks' best chance at contention no matter what they do with Young and Murray on the perimeter.

Snyder, it bears reminding, spent years with the Utah Jazz helming the team's defense around Rudy Gobert. While it stands to reason Clingan won't win four Defensive Player of the Year awards, he could still serve as the interior linchpin of Atlanta's defense just like Gobert did with Snyder in Utah before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Expect to hear more rumors about Clingan and the Hawks leading up to draft night. Most draft-related smoke doesn't actually spark fire, but it seems clear by now that Atlanta really is mulling the possibility of adding Clingan as its new defensive centerpiece on June 26th.