Leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft, indications were that Atlanta Hawks GM Travis Schlenk didn’t want to keep all six picks. The Hawks’ roster, currently saturated with young talent, doesn’t need a massive influx of inexperienced prospects. Perhaps it’s a signal of where the team is progressing.
Schlenk followed through, shipping the #8, #17 and #35 picks — along with a protected 2020 1st-round pick — to New Orleans for #4. In a vacuum, the trade makes sense. Atlanta consolidates assets and gets a top-4 pick, providing the opportunity to add an elite prospect in the draft’s upper tier.
The 2019 class is somewhat unique, though. There aren’t well-defined tiers outside Zion Williamson, as even Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett — the consensus #2 and #3 prospects all summer — have deeply concerning flaws. The Hawks lacked a clear option when selecting at #4, but I would argue the pick made was a slight reach.
With the 4th pick the Atlanta Hawks select: De’Andre Hunter
Atlanta decided on De’Andre Hunter, a talented sophomore forward who has been labeled one of the draft’s best defenders. He earned that reputation at Virginia, using his strength to battle inside and showcasing the ability to switch screens and contain guards on the perimeter at 6-foot-8.
Hunter fits the Hawks’ needs quite well. He’s a career 41.9 percent 3-point shooter who doesn’t need the ball to thrive. As the Hawks continue to entrust the offense in Trae Young, adding players who can complement the dynamic playmaker is a top priority. Hunter fits the bill.
Of the viable options at #4 — Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland and Coby White being the others — Hunter boasts the lowest ceiling on offense. He simply lacks the shot versatility of the point guards, while Culver has more shake to his game. Atlanta was never going to add a point guard, but Culver should have been the preferred pick. This feels like a concerted effort to nail down the defense behind Young.
Atlanta was a poor defensive team last season. John Collins flashes plenty of upside, but he’s not a great rim protector and doesn’t project as an elite defender in the near future. The Hawks can throw Hunter minutes at the three, but there’s intrigue to the idea of running a smaller Collins-Hunter frontcourt for prolonged stretches.
Lloyd Pierce made his name as the Sixers’ defensive coach and vowed to bring a similar mentality to Atlanta. Even as the Warriors-lite comparisons are made, there’s a certain defensive toughness that made Golden State special. Hunter can help add that presence for Atlanta.
At the next level, expect Hunter’s offensive repertoire to show more spice. He is, again, more limited than his top-7 counterparts, but NBA spacing will help unlock Hunter’s face-up game. He does a nice job attacking closeouts, hitting mid-range jumpers and using controlled footwork to carve out space on drives to the rim. That’s important given his projectable three-point stroke.
Both Hunter and Collins are skilled on the perimeter, which adds to the intrigue of Atlanta’s small-ball potential. Hunter can handle in pick-and-rolls to some degree and possesses solid vision for a combo forward. There is 4-5 pick-and-roll potential for the Hawks to explore.
With the 10th pick the Atlanta Hawks select: Cam Reddish
In addition to Hunter, the Hawks managed to add Cam Reddish at #10. I actually had Reddish one spot ahead of Hunter on my board (#6 and #7, respectively) so there’s enough cumulative value to justify a trade-up. The Hawks were sold on Hunter, and while the price was steep, he wasn’t falling to #8. The Hawks felt behooved to move up, which is what landed Trae Young last season.
Reddish was thoroughly underwhelming in his lone season at Duke. There’s no sugarcoating it. He was outright bad for long stretches, shooting under 40% inside the arc, showing zero lift at the rim and even struggling to hit 3-point shots up to his usual standards.
There’s a good chance Reddish would have fallen even further if it weren’t for his pedigree. He was my #1 prospect before the season and was considered by some to be the most naturally talented prospect in the class. It didn’t come to fruition at Duke, but the natural talent is no joke.
At 6-foot-8, Reddish still has enviable physical tools on the wing. His lack of explosion is a major red flag, but fluid movement is enough to pique the interest of talent evaluators. He moves well for his size, often breaking out NBA-caliber dribble moves when operating in a more assertive capacity.
It came in flashes at Duke, but Reddish has tantalizing potential as a shot-maker on the perimeter. His balance, rhythm and compact mechanics are all positive indicators. He looks the part of a dynamic 3-point shooter who can hit shots beyond the NBA line. It’s fair to bet on his percentages improving after such a weird and disorienting season at Duke.
The next step for Reddish is improving his game inside the arc. At the AAU and high school levels, Reddish was an absolute terror. He functioned as a 6-foot-8 point guard, whipping on-target passes and patiently shredding unsuspecting defenses.
It was the opposite at Duke, where he seldom found touches within the Blue Devils’ offensive flow. He was relegated to spot-up opportunities and struggled to venture outside that lane. His 2-point forays were plagued by turnovers, bad misses and blocked shots. He just couldn’t score efficiently inside the arc.
Explosiveness comes into play as the biggest reason for Reddish’s mind-numbing inefficiency. His shot was often blocked as a direct result of not getting enough lift. He would shed defenders with an elusive move, only to find his shot pinned against the backboard after failing to finesse his way around a rim protector’s outstretched arm.
Reddish can get to the rim with long strides and has touch on layups and floaters. It’s most evident in transition, where he looks comfortable zigging through traffic. If he can’t improve his numbers and add some jolt to his athleticism, though, it’s near impossible to project Reddish reaching his lofty ceiling.
The Hawks are the best destination for Reddish. He will get developmental minutes on a rebuilding team. The stakes are low and Atlanta won’t command too much on offense, as Trae will continue running the show. Reddish can get minutes as a complementary shooter and ball-mover, while his defense often gets underrated.
On pure upside alone, the Reddish pick makes sense for Atlanta. Hunter is a safe pick, while Reddish represents an upside swing on a once-heralded five-star recruit. Both fit the scheme on paper in very different ways. But the picks were solid nonetheless.
In the second round, Atlanta sold a couple picks — #41 and #44 — before trading into the #34 spot. They also acquired #57 in the New Orleans trade, but shipped it to Philadelphia, who shipped it to Detroit. The Hawks ended up selecting just one second-round prospect as a result.
With the 34th pick the Atlanta Hawks select: Bruno Fernando
Bruno Fernando was the pick at #34, giving the Hawks a mountainous presence at the 5-spot. While I mentioned the small-ball potential of a Collins-Hunter frontcourt above, it’s not always sustainable to spend uninterrupted stretches without a true center and rim protector. Fernando can help fill that void.
With Dewayne Dedmon set to become a free agent, there’s a chance Atlanta loses its starting center. Fernando’s NBA readiness is in question, but he’s 6-foot-10, 237 pounds and has a 7-foot-3 wingspan. He can pound it on the block, plays physical defense on the interior and showed significant skill growth as a sophomore at Maryland.
Fernando doesn’t defend well in space and lacks the awareness to become a plus defender in year one. But his mere size will offer a deterrence at the rim, something the Hawks are otherwise lacking. He’s a skilled interior scorer who can pass out of the post and hit mid-range jumpers, which he should expand to the 3-point line in time.
- De’Andre Hunter, #4 pick: B
- Cam Reddish, #10 pick: A
- Bruno Fernando, #34 pick: C+
In the end, Atlanta overpaid for the #4 pick. In a flat talent crop, giving up #8, #17, #35 and a future first — which New Orleans turned into Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and a stash — is a steep price. I’m not sure Hunter, who wasn’t the best prospect on the board, warranted such an investment.
Even with the overpay, though, Hunter presents a clear fit. He’s a low-usage player who can coexist with Atlanta’s core pieces and provide a stabilizing force on defense. It’s not difficult to understand the Hawks’ interest in Hunter and why the move was made.
As for Reddish, he was the best prospect available. He will need to show serious growth at the next level, but his upside as a 6-foot-8 shooter and defender fits Atlanta’s system quite well. If he can unlock his playmaking gene, the fit next to Young on the perimeter becomes even more enthralling.
Fernando wasn’t the best center available at #34, plain and simple. Bol Bol and Jontay Porter present injury risks but are far superior talents. Daniel Gafford would have been a better, more immediate solution to the rim protection void. Even so, Fernando’s general fit is too good to earn a negative mark.