The Hawks didn’t have the Rookie of the Year last season, but Trae Young did have one of the most dazzling rookie seasons ever. He just happened to be competing with Luka Doncic for the award, who might have put together the best rookie campaign of all time. Even still, Young led all rookies in points and assists, becoming the primary reason why folks believe the Hawks are on the rise, along with their relatively new general manager – Travis Schlenk.
In two drafts, Schlenk has already brought in three starters who look like they have All-Star potential. Everybody knows about Young and John Collins, but Kevin Huerter made his mark on the league as a rookie as well, and veterans like Dwyane Wade took notice. Schlenk’s eye for talent in the NBA draft has become undeniable, and Atlanta had two more top ten draft picks this offseason, selecting De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish – two Philadelphia natives that left their mark on the ACC. They’ve looked promising thus far in the preseason, and both will play substantial roles on this young Hawks squad.
Lloyd Pierce said after the Hawks’ first practice before the preseason, “De’Andre, we’re going to love De’Andre. That’s all I can say. We’re going to love De’Andre,” as he spoke to the media. “I’ve coached a couple guys who have played deep into the NCAA Tournament. He is the first one I can say, ‘I can see why Virginia won.”
If that doesn’t get you amped up about this kid, I don’t know what to say.
First and foremost, De’Andre Hunter is going to bring a defensive presence that the Hawks sorely missed a season ago. He’s a legit 6’7″ with a wingspan of over seven feet. He’s physical and will probably be able to guard all five positions in the NBA.
Offensively, he’s a sniper from behind the arc, shooting 43.8% from three at Virginia last season. Those two attributes alone will make him a valuable NBA player next year, and I expect him to be in the starting lineup from day one. What I’ll be looking for in his first season is how he develops as a scorer. Can he prove to be more than just a spot-up shooter and create his own offense? That will decide what his ceiling is in the NBA. My gut tells me he will be able to, and Coach Pierce’s comments only make me feel more confident about that notion. Hunter will be a high-quality starter in year one. It may not all be on the stat sheet, but the guy is going to make winning plays.
2019-2020 stat predictions: 11.6 points, 45.7 FG%, 36.4 3-PT FG%, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks
Cam Reddish landing in the Hawks’ lap with the tenth pick in the draft was a blessing many people did not see coming. I thought for sure some team was going to scoop him up before then, and after the draft, Schlenk admitted he had Reddish much higher on his draft board.
Even though Hunter was drafted six spots before Reddish, it is the Duke small forward that has garnered all the attention from fans and his peers. In a survey of his fellow rookies, he received the most votes in the category of which rookie will go on to have the best career, and it isn’t difficult to see why.
Like Hunter, Reddish is a legit 6’7″ with a rangy wingspan of over seven feet. He may not be regarded as highly on the defensive side as Hunter, but Reddish is underrated in that aspect and should be able to play every position on the court, including point guard, which Coach Pierce hinted at as a possibility during Summer League.
With how the Hawks roster is shaping out, I’m looking for Reddish to take over as the sixth man, acting as the primary playmaker and scorer off the bench. He’s a knockdown shooter with a shot as smooth as silk, but there’s more to why his peers think he’s capable of becoming something special.
His length, the way he can handle the basketball for a guy his size, create his own shot, elevate and shoot over defenders from anywhere on the floor gives him an absurdly high ceiling. While there is certainly more bust potential than Hunter, you could compare Reddish’s attributes to some of the best small forwards in the league. He will go through a bit of a rookie learning curve in the first few months, but by the end of the year, he should be a tremendous contributor off the bench and possibly even find himself in the starting lineup
2019-2020 stat predictions: 9.7 points, 39.9 FG%, 33.8 3-PT FG%, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks
Schlenk didn’t stop with Reddish and Hunter. He moved all the way up to the top of the second round to snag Bruno Fernando out of Maryland, who many people had going around the middle of the first round in most mock drafts.
The first thing you’ll notice about Fernando is his sheer strength and size. He’s 6’10,” and around 250 pounds, but not an ounce of it is from body fat, which allows him to move well and be a dominant force on the defensive end.
Fernando should serve as the Hawks backup center behind Alex Len, and I would expect his initial contribution will be as a rebounder and rim protector as he continues to round out his game on the offensive end. The primary thing I will be looking for him to develop is his three-point shot. He hoisted them at times at Maryland and did so fairly well (30% on the year). His shooting stroke is good for a big man, and the Hawks have become notorious for developing snipers under Lloyd Pierce. If he can develop that part of his game, he’ll become a starting center in the NBA.
2019-2020 stat predictions: 5.4 points, 56.3% FG%, 31.1% 3-PT FG%, 4.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.9 blocks