The 2019 Summer Hawks didn’t have the luxury of consistency. De’Andre Hunter missed all but one game. Cam Reddish missed all four contests. Bruno Fernando missed the opener. Omari Spellman was traded after two games. Charlie Brown Jr. didn’t appear until the third game.
There were a lot of moving parts.
As a result, the Hawks skidded to a 1-3 record. Through four games, a few prospects have stood out for reasons good and bad. I will withhold judgement on Hunter due to the limited sample size and circumstances. You can read extended thoughts on the Hunter pick/trade here.
Here are a few notes.
Bruno Fernando belongs in the rotation
The Hawks are in a rebuild. While veteran talent in the vein of Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe will and should get playing time, the emphasis remains on cultivating young talent. Fernando had first-round talent and, through a few games in Vegas, looks like he belongs.
Fernando hasn’t done much as a scorer, tallying just five points against Minnesota, six points against Indiana, and two points against Washington. The majority of his damage has been done as a defender. He’s an absolute specimen, standing 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a strong, thick frame. In Vegas, he has shown mobility on the perimeter and great timing as a shot blocker — collecting 10 rejections between his three games.
Given his shaky defensive reputation at Maryland, Fernando’s ability to pop on that side of the floor is a positive. He has the tools to become a reliable anchor at the five spot, using his athleticism to bother shots and deter drives to the rack.
There have also been some flashes on offense, despite the limited production. Fernando drilled a smooth pull-up jumper in Tuesday’s win over Indiana, a potentially dangerous weapon for someone of his size. His jumper isn’t all the way there yet, but it’s improving. He hit three of 10 deep attempts last season at Maryland. If he can become a reliable spot-up shooter and attack closeouts, his ceiling lies well beyond most second-round bigs.
This is really, really, really scary good. Bruno Fernando is a massive human and this pullup looked crazy smooth pic.twitter.com/ZEytH5nXKy— Ben Pfeifer (@Ben_Pfeifer_) July 9, 2019
Jordan Sibert can shoot the ball
Omitting a rough outing against Minnesota, Sibert has been one of the Hawks’ most impressive performers in Vegas. He played one game with the team on a 10-day contract last season and looks like someone who could stick, whether it’s on a two-way contract or in the G-League.
In 17 minutes against Indiana, Sibert scored 21 points and hit 7 of 9 three-point shots. He has a smooth, quick trigger — needing little space and exuding confidence as a shooter. The Hawks thrive on pace and space philosophies. Knockdown shooters have significant value, and Sibert fits that archetype on the wing.
Sibert was less prolific in the Hawks’ Vegas opener — he shot just 4 of 12 from deep — but showed more skill across the board. He ran point, nabbed three steals, and got to the free throw line 10 times, where he shot a perfect 100 percent. He has shown more than enough to deserve an extended look beyond Summer League.
Tahjere McCall might stick too
McCall spent five games with the Long Island Nets last season and made one brief stop in Brooklyn, scoring four points in eight NBA minutes. He, similar to Sibert, has earned an extended look beyond Vegas, whether it’s in a G-League role or on a two-way contract.
At the risk of evoking an overused cliche, McCall tends to make winning plays. He crashes the glass, hustles on defense, moves the ball, and hits the occasional triple. The Hawks can always use another wing who checks those boxes.
Lloyd Pierce has built the Hawks’ foundation on defense. Even if the roster isn’t built around defense, it’s something Pierce hammers into press statements and interviews. McCall guards hard and has the tools to defend a couple positions.
McCall scored 16 in the Hawks’ loss to Milwaukee, 15 in their win over Indiana, and 12 in their loss to Washington. He didn’t play in the loss to Minnesota.
The blue-blood upperclassmen have underwhelmed
The Summer Hawks’ roster features three high-profile collegiate upperclassmen: Nick Ward (Michigan State), Reid Travis (Kentucky), and Matt Mooney (Texas Tech). Their collective performances have been less than promising.
Mooney fights hard on defense but lacks the athleticism to thrive as an NBA point guard. He’s prone to turnovers despite being a sound decision-maker, as longer defenders often swallow passing lanes and force Mooney into uncomfortable positions. He’s not crafty enough as a scorer, ball handler, or passer to make up for it.
As for Ward, his effort is commendable. He has moments where the physical tools shine through, and it’s evident why he’s on the roster. But for the most part, his lateral quickness doesn’t hold up on defense, and he lacks the skill to contribute consistently on offense.
Travis occupies a similar vein. His strong frame and physical tools spark some level of intrigue, but his jumper isn’t consistent and he’s not a polished scorer in the post. He can’t rely on pure strength, at 6-foot-8, to survive in the NBA. He’s just not there yet.
The early returns on Charlie Brown are positive
The Hawks signed St. John’s wing Charlie Brown Jr. to a two-way contract and debuted him against Indiana. In just two Summer League games, Brown sought to justify Atlanta’s investment. He was up to the task.
Over the course of 59 Vegas minutes, Brown shot 3-for-8 from deep, scored 34 points, and showcased the defensive versatility Lloyd Pierce craves. He’s not a great defender but has the length and athleticism to guard three positions. He made an effort to establish a defensive presence in the desert.
Brown has soft touch inside, a quick trigger on the perimeter, and the hallmarks of an effective scoring wing. He can burn closeouts and should create his own buckets when asked, a valuable trait in the second unit. The Hawks will have the luxury of moving Brown between Atlanta and College Park as needed this season. He’s someone to keep an eye on as arguably the best overall performer in Vegas.
The Hawks have now finished their four preliminary games and will not appear in the eight-team Summer League tournament. They will play one more game before traveling back to Atlanta, the opponent TBD.