Hawks: The best part of each rookie’s game & how it all fits

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The 2019 Draft feels like a massive success for the Hawks so far, and looking forward as this team starts to become more cohesive, the potential for creating a deep lineup with switchable wings and an actual defensive presence is taking form. The Hawks did a lot of wheeling and dealing to land the three players they scoped out during the draft process, and they all make this team better in a different way. Atlanta needed to bolster the wings and add a defensive anchor in the middle following Dewayne Dedmon’s departure – and on paper – mission accomplished.

De’Andre Hunter: Lockdown Perimeter Defense

The Hawks were putrid on defense last season. Besides the Cavs setting records for defensive rating, Atlanta was a bottom three defensive team in the association and wasn’t far behind the Suns. They allowed the 2nd most points in transition and let opponents shoot 36% from behind the arc. De’Andre Hunter has the potential to change that identity. A long and fluid athlete, Hunter was a pivotal piece to Tony Bennett’s championship team.

He can play the 2-4, and his focus and intensity on the defensive end are unmatched. Combine that with a budding offensive game and disciplined play, it’s easy to see why Travis Schlenk and Lloyd Pierce love this kid. Shooting 42% from three in college will play in this Hawks system. Hunter possesses a high basketball IQ and graded out in the 96th percentile for defensive players as a small forward. He locked down Jarrett Culver (who has looked very impressive this preseason and was another top 10 pick) in the National Championship Game, holding him to 22% shooting and 15 points. Culver made no threes on six attempts. De’Andre Hunter has Kawhi Leonard potential at his ceiling, and at worst, he’s in the mold of a Danny Green/Otto Porter.

What Makes Him A Great Fit In Atlanta: Potential to Grow into an Elite 3 & D Player

Atlanta loves to shoot, and in the modern NBA, Hunter is a prototype of what teams like. Even though he’s a little older, he shot 44% from three in his senior season en route to a Championship. His defense and three-point shooting are going to transfer, making him an elite weapon and an invaluable piece to this franchise.

Hunter’s a picture-perfect fit next to Huerter, Young and Collins as a shooter on the perimeter that can affect the game just as much on the defensive end, something the Hawks have been aching for.  Hunter will allow Young and Huerter to create more on the offensive side by taking some pressure off them defensively, while his shooting will fit perfectly with Young on offense, who should be able to find him open consistently around the three-point line.

Cam Reddish: Versatility

Cam Reddish was a shiny prospect coming out of high school. He lost a little bit of his luster at Duke playing alongside top three picks RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson (who has been an absolute MANIAC so far) and slipped to the Hawks at #10. I’m not sure what Washington was doing choosing Rui Hachimura at #9, but one man’s trash…

After the trade up, Atlanta had their fingers crossed that Reddish would fall to them. If he was gone, the Hawks might have punted and traded out of that slot. Everything went perfectly on draft night, and the Hawks landed both of their guys.

Reddish has a smooth game and especially potent offensive skills. He’s an underrated and fluid athlete that has no problem bringing the ball up the floor. His three-point percentage was sub-par at Duke, but his range and shooting motion caught the eyes of the Hawks. He’s already comfortable with the longer NBA three, and the proper coaching and system around him will allow him to shine with open looks and a bevy of other shooters to take the pressure off of him. His wingspan and size are incredible, and he could mold into a better defensive player than most think. Reddish’s length allows him to snag rebounds and steals you think he’d have no chance for, which makes me think he’s going to surprise a lot of doubters when he starts to gel with this team.

You can never have enough combo wings in the NBA, and Reddish is a unique one with sky-high potential. I think he molds into a Khris Middleton type of guy at his best if his three-point shot develops. And if the defense and switchability come along, think prime Rudy Gay. His explosiveness isn’t spectacular, but on an NBA training regiment and as he ages, I think we see some more pop out of him.

What Makes Him A Great Fit In Atlanta: Letting his talents shine in a thin wing rotation

It’s no secret wings are in short order in Atlanta. We have the much-improved DeAndre’ Bembry, Kevin Huerter, ageless wonder Vince Carter, Jabari Parker, and possibly Chandler Parsons as the top guys. That’s not ideal.

Taurean Prince left a huge hole that will be filled by DeAndre Hunter, but Bembry and Reddish are going to have to anchor the 2nd unit. Evan Turner is meh as a point guard, which could mean Bembry and Reddish handling the ball often. Vince is going to be Vince, but these young wings, along with Bruno Fernando, are going to have to create an identity as a part of possibly the thinnest bench in the NBA.

I expect Reddish to push Huerter for the starting role down the line, but it’s way too early for that. With the rotation as thin as it is, expect Reddish to take more of an alpha role and let his game cut loose a little with the second unit, something we rarely ever saw at Duke. He only averaged 13 points while shooting 33% from three, but as an alpha, I think we’ll see more of the Cam that had a 27 point outburst against UNC. He won’t disappear as much behind someone like Zion on this squad.

Bruno Fernando: Rim Protection

I love this Bruno Fernando pick. The Hawks weren’t as soft on the inside as they were on the perimeter last season, but with Dedmon gone, they desperately needed depth.

Fernando is an uber athlete with crazy length. He looks like he could be an elite tight end. He has bounce and was getting some late first-round love before the Hawks moved up in the 2nd round to snag him at pick #34.

The Angolan native stands 6’10 with a 7’3 wingspan, and he shows off his explosiveness with a 33.5 inch vertical. He notched 13.6 PPG at Maryland combined with 10.6 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks per game. Atlanta gave up the 3rd most 2nd chance points last season, and Fernando’s presence down low can be a powerful determinant in turning that number around. Along with his defense, his 60% FG percentage is encouraging, and his ability to leap is going to provide us with some exciting Trae to Bruno lobs. The Hawks need Fernando to soften the blow of Dedmon.

I think a perfect comparison for him is Serge Ibaka (credit to NBADraftNet.com for this one and the stats). They’re very similar in size, and Atlanta is going to try and develop his outside game to turn him into one of the best rim protecting/shooting big men in the NBA. One area Bruno needs to work on his ball security, but in Atlanta’s pass-happy system, I think he’ll have the proper coaching to fix his woes.

What Makes Him A Great Fit In Atlanta: Provides an anchor in the middle with potential to develop a 3 point shot

Okay, hear me out on this one. Fernando only shot 31% from three in college, but he only had about 0.2 attempts per game. We saw what this staff did for Alex Len and Dewayne Dedmon, so Fernando is going to be pushed when he has open looks. His free throw percentage is elite for a big man – 78% his sophomore season. This guy was a human highlight reel in the NCAA tournament against Belmont and LSU:

Belmont: 14 points, 13 Reb, 4 Assists, 2 Blocks, 2 Steals, 1/1 3P (100%)

LSU: 10 points, 15 Reb, 1 Assist, 0/1 3P

Fernando is a bit raw, but he’s athletic, and I believe the Hawks coaching staff thinks they can turn him into a shooter. Bruno did not miss any of his seven free throws in the NCAA tournament. Not only can he provide the defensive presence needed, but Atlanta could also have five shooters (and 3-4 snipers) on the floor with a youthful core of Young, Huerter, Hunter, Collins, and Fernando.

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